AUGUSTA — A proposal to breed tropical fish and process live imported mussels has the city considering creating a new zoning district on part of Eastern Avenue.

A proposal to create a PD zone goes before city councilors for discussion tonight. The City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at Augusta City Center.

The new zone would allow both light manufacturing, such as food processing, as well as aquaculture, such as tropical fish breeding, in an approximately mile-long area surrounding Uncle Henry’s, a weekly classified publication, on the east side of the city.

Uncle Henry’s and land surrounding it is owned by Joseph Sutton, the businessman who hopes to open an indoor tropical fish breeding operation with between 200 and 400 individual small breeding tanks. Plans also call for an associated facility with large holding tanks that would process live mussels imported from Newfoundland for resale elsewhere, according to city officials.

Matt Nazar, deputy development director for the city, said mussel processing would be regulated as light manufacturing by the city, and tropical fish breeding as aquaculture.

Now, neither light manufacturing nor aquaculture are allowed in the primarily residential area.

The Planning Board, in a recommendation that was criticized by some city councilors last month, also recommended the city allow aquaculture in all areas where agriculture is allowed, which Nazar estimated would include about two-thirds of the city’s land area.

Councilor Patrick Paradis agreed with other councilors in favoring creating a new zone for the specific area in question on Eastern Avenue, which is Route 17, rather than allowing aquaculture wherever agriculture is allowed in Augusta.

He warned that opening up much of the city to a relatively unknown industry such as aquaculture could end up resulting in a situation similar to one off West River Road, in which Grandview neighborhood residents sparred with an asphalt plant located in a gravel pit. That prompted months of contentious debate and the city changing the zoning of the area to ban asphalt plants.

“My vote is not going to say we ought to add aquaculture in all zones where agriculture is allowed,” said Paradis. “We went down that slope with mineral extraction, and added associated uses (including an asphalt plant) at midnight and it became a big operation.

“I’m not going down that road again. Over my dead body will I allow that to happen.”

Councilors are also scheduled to:

* discuss a proposed new herbicide ordinance and policy, which includes a system by which residents may opt out of having the sidewalk in front of their property sprayed by the city if they agree to maintain it;

* discuss a committee recommendation on a potential new Ward 4 polling place, with the previous polling place, St. Andrews, for sale and no longer available;

* discuss a possible zoning change on Western Avenue;

* hear a presentation on an upcoming downtown Augusta art walk;

* hear a presentation on the Business Careers Academy; and

* discuss the use of the Freecycle website.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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