Disneyfication of Boothbay Harbor
Residents of the community, along with town, county and state officials, spent three years developing a comprehensive plan for the future of Boothbay Harbor. This plan, the 2015 Comprehensive Plan, emphasizes developing sustainable businesses, “improve and manage public access to the water,” and that “the current Maritime-Water Dependent District continue.” That plan was deliberate and thoughtful. Further development should be part of implementing, and consistent with, this comprehensive plan and not be done in a piecemeal, hurried fashion.
Recent development proposals put Boothbay Harbor at risk of losing its quaint character and losing more tourism in the move by some for gentrification. Part of the charm of Boothbay is that it feels like stepping back in time to a quieter, kinder era. The proposal to change zoning risks losing many things. Besides aesthetics, allowing “mixed use” in the maritime district would likely result in owners selling for more profitable development, reducing water access for fish/lobstermen and recreational boaters, already in short supply.
Replacing mom and pop restaurants and motels with more pricey hotels designed to keep tourist dollars in-house, or with condos, will not increase the flow of tourism dollars to the community, particularly if many of the condo buyers are wealthy individuals who own several properties and only spend a few days here each year. Further, with climate change and rising sea levels, this proposal to build near the water seems extraordinarily ill conceived.
Perhaps the town could look at negotiating for a right-of-way for a walkway similar to that at Ocean Point in East Boothbay, as part of any change that occurs on the east side. That would help make the town more attractive and likely boost tourism.
The 2015 Comprehensive Plan emphasized expanding opportunities for residents while preserving the character of the town that has made it so attractive to middle-income tourists. Further development should be part of implementing, and be consistent with, that carefully thought out plan and not be done hastily or in a piecemeal fashion that will ultimately prove detrimental to the people who live and work here.
Judy Stone, MD