Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Waterfront property for fisheries use

"Question 7 will ask the voters to amend the Maine Constitution to provide a different tax assessment level for waterfront land used for commercial fishing purposes. The waterfront property would be taxed much like farmland and forestland currently are." This is the kind of thing I was talking about in my previous post. That it's not only the fish farmers giving the fishermen a hard time, it's also everyone that has just got to build a condo on the waterfront, or put in a pizza parlor where there used to be an outboard repair shop.

It used to be in Petersburg that if you were a fisherman, you built a warehouse on piling along the beach somewhere. It made their life infinitely easier, to just pull up to the warehouse at high tide and throw things back in or take new gear on, etc. I have fond memories of playing in these old musty warehouses when growing up. They acted as the unofficial museums. Sometimes a new generation of fisherman in the family would get tired of the old stuff and bring in a dump truck to haul everything away.

I got in before the truck arrived at my grandfather's old warehouse and picked up a few things, like his log books dating to the 1920's. At least one trip to Astoria was in there. It must have been pretty rough going over the Columbia River Bar, because one of the crew got washed overboard and they never did get him. My grandfather pulled into Astoria and notified the Marshal and that was the extent of the notations about that. If I remember right, that was in 1927.

His brother was lost at sea at Point Gardner, Alaska in about 1908 while fishing a dory for halibut. He was by himself, while the gas boat was anchored at Tyee. The old boy who had the big boat probably just figured it was his job to get back in a blow. Things were certainly different back then. My grandfather and his brother had come from Norway together to join their father in Petersburg just a couple of years before that.

Well, you can't afford to build a warehouse on the waterfront anymore. The zoning regulations won't allow it in a lot of cases, or the land is just too expensive. The model of the successful fishing port is being chipped away at, and the new model, with limited fisherman impact in the waterfront area, is not guaranteed to yield a viable industrial base.

But certainly warehouses and such fisheries infrastructure should be taxed at a lower rate to support industrial activity. Sometimes these old warehouses are the incubator for good local businesses like an aluminum repair and fabrication shop, or machine shop. Coastal communities need to factor in such things to strengthen their business model. But I don't know if these communities have even developed or adopted a fisheries industrial model as a blueprint to strengthen the industrial base that is their bread and butter.


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