Stimson gets limited permit to reopen in Boothbay

Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013 in News

Stimson gets limited permit to reopen in Boothbay

by Steve Cartwright

BOOTHBAY — Six months after shutting him down, the town of Boothbay has given David Stimson a permit to repair boats in his yet-to-be-completed shop.

The town argued Stimson Marine violates the town zoning ordinance for a residential area, although Stimson has been building boats on the Burnham Cove property for 30 years.

After many hours and several meetings, Boothbay's Planning Board voted unanimously on March 6 to allow Stimson to work out of a not-yet-completed 40-by-60-foot wooden building on the Burnham Cove property where he lives. The move may not end months of wrangling over whether the boatbuilding business is legal. Stimson is considering a petition to see if voters will change the zoning ordinance at Town Meeting this spring, allowing him to resume building boats from scratch.

The current Planning Board permit restricts him to repairing vessels.

The permit comes with many conditions, from a limit on employees and parking to restrictions on when he can operate machinery and a deadline for completing the boat shop: June 15.

"I'm disappointed that they interpreted the ordinance to mean I can't do any boatbuilding, but I'm glad they gave me a conditional use permit for boat repair," Stimson said.

Stimson has built and restored many wooden yachts over the years, and his two sons now work with him in the business. The town zoning ordinance precludes manufacturing in a residential zone, although in a possibly contradictory statement, it encourages boatbuilding in all zones. Much of the Planning Board debate centered on whether boatbuilding, or boat repair, is "manufacturing."

Further muddying the waters is the fact that the town gave Stimson a building permit for his boat shop, only to order him to cease work on boats when a couple of neighbors complained about the activity.

One of those two neighbors, Mike Tomacelli, a new member of the Planning Board, recused himself from the debate and vote on Stimson's permit. The other neighbor, John Kelley, has said he wouldn't have bought his property if he knew boatbuilding was going on next door.

Stimson was denied permission to continue work on a 50-foot steel schooner he is building for a customer who plans to sail the Arctic Sea. That setback means Stimson will likely move the vessel to an out-of-town site for completion. One of his options is to move his entire business to Belfast, where town officials have been welcoming, he said.

"We've lost literally tens of thousands of dollars because of this," Stimson told the board.

Stimson also plans to circulate a petition for a zoning change that would again allow him to build boats on his property. Several local boat builders in the audience voiced support for Stimson Marine. Tomacelli and his wife, Lois, who recently built a house near Stimson and then objected to noise from the shop, raised questions about granting him a permit.

But after the meeting, Mike Tomacelli offered to help Stimson saw some logs with a portable sawmill to complete the boat-shop walls. It was a dramatic shift from Tomacelli's previous testimony against Stimson Marine.

One supporter of Stimson Marine suggested local people could organize a barn-raising to help the business.

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