Alderman Ross Arnett wanted public feedback on proposed changes to the City Dock maritime district and got it at a Town Hall Thursday night.
About 70 people attended the meeting in Eastport, hosted by Arnett, D-Ward 8, on changes to legislation that will impact the district.
Arnett scheduled the meeting to update residents about the amendments, which will be proposed at Monday's City Council meeting, and give them an opportunity for feedback before then.
The legislation has been proposed by Mayor Mike Pantelides and Joe Budge, D-Ward 1, as an effort to update the district and make it more competitive with nearby commercial districts.
Arnett was a vocal critic of the bill after its introduction, raising concerns about other maritime districts requesting changes to their zoning so they can expand retail and restaurant businesses. He had planned a Town Hall in September, but canceled it when it became apparent that amendments would be proposed on the legislation.
Those amendments were released Wednesday and — if approved — have gotten the legislation to an area that Arnett is comfortable with, so he spent Thursday night discussing those changes. He still raised concerns about other maritime districts requesting the changes, but admitted the district needs an update as it is a conglomeration of properties, most of them nonconforming to current code.
"The district was always kind of flawed for a maritime district," Arnett said.
The legislation changing the Waterfront Maritime Conservation District would require any development there to have at least 40 percent maritime-related business. The remaining 60 percent could be built as restaurant or retail. The entire zone is affected, but current properties would be grandfathered in and new developments, such as a proposal at the old Fawcett Boat Supplies property, or redevelopments have to honor the zoning changes.
Current law doesn't set a minimum for maritime use and requires restaurants to limit nonmaritime retail to 30 percent of floor space for each development.
Proposed amendments to the legislation mean both restaurants and nonmaritime retail properties will require special exceptions, instead of just restaurants.
Another proposed change is limiting rooftop and outside dining to midnight instead of 2 a.m. and forbidding an outside bar, dancing, live entertainment and speakers, including low level background music. These were concerns raised by the public.
In between sections of his presentation, residents were able to pepper Arnett with questions about the change and City Dock as a whole.
Terence Smith, of Eastport, focused on the City Dock Master Plan, asking why the city won't follow through on a document it adopted.
According to the master plan. the water view along Main Street should be preserved by taking down the building at 110 Compromise St. Smith writes a monthly guest column for The Capital.
Just a portion of the building needs to be removed, he said.
Budge, D-Ward 1, said the city attorney has told him that the legislation doesn't contradict the master plan.
Another resident claimed the changes to the district amount to spot zoning, meaning it only affects one property.
Patrick Shaughnessy, president and shareholder of Farr Yacht Design, said the city needs to do something to fill vacant buildings and motivate businesses.
His comments received the most applause.
"We have to work together better and get somewhere we are proud of," Shaughnessy said. "We have to give people a reason to be here; if you don't want to change the zoning to fill these buildings up, then give them a reason to be here."