SOUTH PORTLAND (AP) – South Portland businesses say a proposed city-owned pier and docking area at the foot of the Casco Bay Bridge would bring in more business, but local marinas are concerned it would take business away.

Designs for the pier at the Thomas Knight Park include a marina for recreational boaters and a public pier for residents to fish on or just visit.

The city received $240,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Boating Infrastructure Grant program for the project, which will turn four granite piers left from the Million Dollar Bridge into a walkway and dock area. The city is contributing $125,000 for the project.

The designs include the possibility of future expansions to add more slip spaces and an area to launch canoes or kayaks.

“We think it will be a great addition for us,” said Michael Drinan, president of the Waterfront Market Association, a group of businesses near the proposed pier.

Drinan and other business owners in the city’s Knightville section envision boaters stopping at the dock, walking up Ocean Street and buying provisions or eating at a restaurant. The project also would draw residents to a small park that is seldom used.

But marina owners want to make sure the pier won’t take away from their businesses.

Sunset Marina leases about 150 slips nearby.

“I would prefer not competing with the city for my livelihood,” said Daniel Lilley II, owner of neighboring Sunset Marina Corp., which has about 150 slips nearby.

The city’s proposal comes at a time when two private marinas are adding 334 slips in the harbor. Although the demand for seasonal rentals is high, marina owners said they usually have vacant slips to rent to transient boaters.

The dock would allow boats to stop for a couple hours, or as long as 10 days. It is scheduled to have room for six boats and provide electricity and water plus a sewage pump out station. The city dock would not have showers, toilets or fuel stations.

South Portland’s proposal is unusual. Most public docks in southern Maine only allow a short stop for boaters to load or unload, and do not allow boaters to tie up and go shopping or spend the night.

AP-ES-09-30-03 0746EDT

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