Officials from Blount Boats, which build large ferries and work boats on a sprawling tract of riverfront land on lower Water Street, were due to appear before the zoning board Wednesday night to ask for permission to build several new buildings, including a large retractable-roof tent on the waterfront. But the requests won’t be heard until mid-December.
Blount officials and their engineer, Bristol’s Ron Blanchard, appeared before the planning board last week, a required step in the approval process since town laws dictate that the board must make a recommendation on their request to the zoning board. But at last week’s planning meeting, Blount officials asked for a continuance until December, siting some design changes.
They are still unclear, but there is word that Blount officials will ask for a taller tent structure than was originally considered. The tallest structure allowed without a variance is 35 feet, but Mr. Blanchard requested a taller building; perhaps, an audience member suggested, as tall as 45 feet. In addition, Blount’s plans to build a new 14,400-square-foot sheet metal building may also change, he said.
Once the planning board reconvenes— the board is expected to meet on the issue on Monday, Dec. 17 — the zoning board will then consider Blount’s several requests. That meeting will likely be held Wednesday, Dec. 19.
Marcia Blount, who runs the business’s day to day operations, said her company needs an expanded, updated yard to compete. She believes that making the changes would allow Blount to work on four or five boats simultaneously, up from the maximum of three that workers can now build. That’s hugely important, she said as the firm struggles to never turn away work.
“Strategically, to survive, we need to increase our level of activity with the plot of land that we have,” she said. “Contracts are coming down the pike.”
Blount is currently building a 110-foot ferry boat for the Maine Department of Transportation, which will use it to ferry passengers around the islands of Casco Bay in Portland. It is due to be delivered next September. Also, workers just laid the keel for the next boat, which is being built for Fire Island Ferries on Long Island. The 85-foot fast aluminum ferry is the ninth boat Blount has built for Fire Island Ferries, and it is due to be delivered in June 2014.
Apart from its ferry boat work, Blount has a contract with South Boats on the Isle of Wight, England, which designs boats used in offshore wind farm applications. South Boats approached Blount several years ago to build its designs, and Ms. Blount said it’s been a great relationship.