2016-03-18 / Front Page

Boatyard planned at Route 1 rest area

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer


The rest area along Route 1 in Kennebunk, part of a 14-acre lot used primarily by the town as a snow dump in recent years, has been sold to a developer who plans to open retail shops along the highway and a light manufacturing plant in back for outfitting boats. Only about five acres of the site can be developed according to the town, as the rest is considered a wetland area, with at least one protected vernal pool. (Kevin A. Byron photo) The rest area along Route 1 in Kennebunk, part of a 14-acre lot used primarily by the town as a snow dump in recent years, has been sold to a developer who plans to open retail shops along the highway and a light manufacturing plant in back for outfitting boats. Only about five acres of the site can be developed according to the town, as the rest is considered a wetland area, with at least one protected vernal pool. (Kevin A. Byron photo) KENNEBUNK — Selectmen have agreed to sell the former roadside rest area on Route 1 to someone who plans to turn it into a manufacturing site for lightweight boats. However, not everyone in town is excited about the potential development.

“What about the adjoining vernal pool?” asked Alex Mendelsohn on his website PADES Watch, which tracks local environmental issues.

Mendelsohn points out the pool located on the 14- acre rest stop lot is recognized by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which has even assigned it a number – “Vernal Pool #539.”

“Will this ‘development’ threaten this vital natural – and protected – resource?” Mendelsohn asked

A vernal pool is a specially classified wetland area, one which generally has standing water at only certain times of the year. Because these spots have no fish, they make prime habitats for amphibians, insects and other forms of wildlife.

Last July, Mendelsohn was passed over by selectmen for reappointment to Kennebunk’s conservation and open space committee. He blamed the snub on his insistence on holding the town’s feet to the fire on environmental issues, while board Chairman Kevin Donovan cited Mendelsohn’s alleged combative behavior at committee meetings.

No conflict was in evidence at selectmen’s March 8 meeting, however, and the 5-0 vote to sell the property to Benjamin Meggs passed with no question or debate from the board.

At the June 2014 town meeting, residents gave selectmen permission to sell the former rest stop by a vote of 1,708-545. When the town solicited proposals last August, it got only one reply.

“The project was not awarded, based on the proposed use that was submitted, which did not meet the desired goals of the economic development committee,” Town Manager Barry Tibbett said in a memo to selectmen.

According to Selectman Christopher Cluff, a second attempt drew more offers.

“The best option for that property was submitted by Benjamin Meggs of Wells, who will bring in a light manufacturing operation toward the rear of the property and retail/office space in the front,” Tibbetts wrote.

The sale was reportedly pegged at $115,000 and Meggs will be held by the planning board to limitations on the land. According to Kennebunk Economic Development Director Mat Eddy, only about five acres of the site is suitable for development.

Eddy said the retail space planned by Meggs along Route 1 will likely include shops closely aligned with the commercial center the town is trying to encourage along that stretch.

“He’s very focused in our Buy Local program and our home improvement mile that we are working on,” Eddy said.

Meanwhile, the manufacturing site is slated to include a 20,000-square-foot building dedicated to the boat-building trade. Future build-outs could expand the structure to as much as 450,000 square feet.

“There’s a demand for lightweight boats as sort of tenders for the ‘mother ship’, so we will be rigging them out for that,” Meggs told selectmen.

Meggs, who has a background in business of high-end yachts, has said no boats will be built at the new business. Instead, he will bring in boats to be outfitted out with sails.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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