Luke's Lobster, a restaurant group founded by Cape Elizabeth native Luke Holden, has assumed operation of the former Sea Pier, now known as Carter's Wharf, on the east side of the harbor in Boothbay Harbor. Credit: Courtesy of Boothbay Region Maritime Foundation

Luke’s Lobster, a restaurant group founded by Cape Elizabeth native Luke Holden, has taken over operation of the historic Sea Pier on the east side of Boothbay Harbor.

The pier, since renamed Carter’s Wharf, was purchased in August by the Boothbay Region Maritime Foundation from fisherman Douglas Carter with the intent to maintain it as a commercial fishing wharf. The parties signed their lease last week, according to a release from the foundation.

Luke’s Lobster will buy all of the catch, which will be served to its customers.

Luke’s Lobster has more than 40 locations including Portland, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Tokyo, Japan.

[Pier purchase aims to stave off luxury development in coastal Maine town]

The foundation purchased the Sea Pier, adjacent to Cap’n Fish Motel, amid ongoing controversy related to increasing development pressures on the east side of the harbor.

Southport developer Paul Coulombe, whose many projects in town have included redeveloping the former Boothbay Harbor Country Club and Rocktide Restaurant and Inn into Boothbay Harbor Oceanside Country Club, has proposed rezoning the east side of the harbor into a limited commercial district, which would allow hotels, recreational marinas and housing.

In July, Coulombe told the Bangor Daily News he had purchased The Lobster Dock, also an adjacent property, and expected to close on Cap’N Fish’s in November.

[Subscribe to our free morning newsletter and get the latest headlines in your inbox]

But in October, Coulombe pulled his proposal to purchase Cap’n Fish motel and restaurant, just up the road from the Sea Pier, after the town’s Board of Selectmen opted to hire an independent planner to weigh in on the proposed rezoning.

According to a release published Oct. 25 in the Boothbay Register, Coulombe had already invested $500,000 in nonrefundable deposits, and had planned to invest $30 million in a “new hotel, restaurant and world-class conference center” on the site.

Town residents will vote at a May 3 town meeting on whether to establish a Limited Commercial/Maritime District and a Working Waterfront District.

[How Boothbay Harbor became ground zero in Maine’s fight over working waterfront]

The foundation was formed with a mission to protect Boothbay Harbor’s working waterfront, marine-related activities and access for fishermen, and to educate, president Deanne Tibbetts said in the release.

“We are really looking forward to this partnership and to working with the fishermen here at Sea Pier to create as much value as possible for their product at the shore,” Holden said in the release. “Protecting Maine’s working waterfront and access for fishermen is important for our business and our mission of sourcing the highest quality seafood but also critically important for Maine’s future.”

Luke’s Lobster maintains a processing facility in Saco, and is “dedicated to traceability, sustainability and providing guests with delicious, fresh seafood.” The company buys lobster and crab directly from fishermen and “works with them to return more value to the shore,” according to the release,

The parties involved plan to explore forming a fisherman’s co-operative in the future.

[How one man’s vision is reshaping a coastal Maine community]

The foundation purchased the property with a deed restriction requiring that it remain a commercial fishing wharf.

“The working waterfront is key to Maine on many levels – not only maintaining access for fishermen but also for tourism and economic development. People coming from out of state want to see the authentic Maine, and that’s our working waterfront,” said Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fisherman’s Association, the fiscal sponsor of the foundation as it awaits its 501(c)(3) status from the federal government.

“The partnership with Luke’s, an innovative and growth oriented company, with a track record for excellent collaboration with fishermen, is a smart move for the foundation and more broadly for the Boothbay community.”