Bristol Marine: Sewer needed for boatyard upgrades


When Andy Tyska bought a Poppasquash Road boatyard out of bankruptcy more than a decade ago, he had a larger vision for the 3.28-acre site.

His plan for Bristol Marine called for a larger boatyard to store more boats; a new, all-season working shed to make repairs; and expanding the marina into Bristol's harbor to accommodate deeper, larger boats.

But before he puts a shovel in the ground (or water) to expand, Mr. Tyska needs access to the town's sewer system, which doesn't exist anywhere on Poppasquash Road. And before he gets access to the town sewer, he needs state approval. And before he gets state approval, he needs town approval. And before he gets town approval, he needs town planning board approval of his master plan. Welcome to Mr. Tyska's bureaucratic maze.

"We don't have the infrastructure we need to expand our business," he said.

Mr. Tyska's most recent discussion with the town to expand started in the spring of 2012. At that time, he and the Bristol Town Council struck an agreement that if Mr. Tyska wanted a sewer line to his business, he would have to pay for it. Since then, he's been willing to cough up the $200,000 to $400,000 needed for the town to run a sewer line from Hope Street to 99 Poppasquash Road.

Then things got complicated.

"He's having trouble finding the best route," said Community Development Director Diane Williamson. "He's not able to go along the shoreline, and going through Colt State Park would require DEM (Department of Environmental Management) approval."

Yet before Mr. Tyska can make a formal request with DEM to install a sewer line through state property, however, he needs a special use permit granted by the Town of Bristol.

"This way, they're not giving me something that in turn, the town isn't OK with," he explained.

That's where his expansion plans stalled.

In order for the town to grant him a special use permit — Bristol Marine is zoned residential, but existed before the town's zoning laws — the planning board needs to approve Bristol Marine's master plan. The planning board has been reluctant to do so, since Mr. Tyska's original expansion design five years ago expanded his marina to the north into state waters, tripling his slip total to 75.

That plan caused such an uproar with residents and neighbors of Bristol Marine, that the state amended its laws to reflect that "no acquiring authority shall relinquish riparian rights of Colt State Park or Poppasquash Road, Bristol to any entity for private use."

"Because he came in with those big plans, and everyone got upset, there's such a heightened awareness now," Ms. Williamson said. "Every time he submits something, people want to know if he's back to that big plan."

Mr. Tyska has assured the town, through his application, that he has modified his master plan to expand his marina 200 feet to the east, about doubling the length of his current dock, and bringing the total number of slips to just 39. This would allow Bristol Marine to service larger and deeper boats. The expansion would remain within Bristol Marine's current riparian rights.

"It's a long-term plan that if we're going to continue to grow and invest money in making changes, that we'll want to include additional slips," Mr. Tyska said. "But those slips are of the least importance right now."

Right now, what Bristol Marine needs is a sewer line, he said.

"I can't install a new, bigger septic system because then I'd need to add fill, which would raise the ground level and take away lot space for storing the boats," he said. In the boating off-season, about 200 boats are stored on the property.

The current septic system is not working properly and requires pumping of the holding tank on a weekly basis. When there's an overflow, which happens regularly, it negatively impacts Bristol Marine's neighbors, said Paul Sanroma.

"I see the effect of that along my shoreline," said Mr. Sanroma, who lives at 55 Poppasquash Road. "So I support his need for sewer. It would be better for everyone."

Should the town decide not to approve Bristol Marine's master plan, it may mean the loss of Bristol's status as a working waterfront, Mr. Tyksa said.

"We're the only working, serviceable boatyard in Bristol's harbor," he said. "It complements perfectly what the town is trying to do with the (armory) maritime center."

Last year, Mr. Tyska bought a parcel of waterfront land in Somerset, Mass., where he constructed a 25-slip dock, with ample room to expand.

"All these boaters are spending their money in Somerset, when they could be dining and shopping in Bristol," he said of boaters who have docked at his Somerset location. The Bristol boatyard was too small to accommodate them.

"I love Bristol. I love being here. I have a family here," he said. "And I'd like to keep it this way. We have wonderful employees who depend on us. And for every boat slip, it creates one job directly, and three indirectly."

Bristol's Technical Review Committee is expected to comment on Bristol Marine's official application on Tuesday, Jan. 21.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.