The Belfast Planning Board is expected to come up with recommendations on zoning changes and comprehensive plan amendments that were previously enacted to allow the construction of a controversial land-based salmon farm at its next meeting, on Wednesday, September 5, at 6 p.m. in the city council chambers.

The planning board is retroactively reviewing the ordinances, which the city council passed back in April, as a result of a lawsuit filed by abutters of the yet-to-be-built salmon farm against the city, the Belfast Water District and the company Nordic Aquafarms, alleging that the city did not follow state-mandated protocols to include the planning board and the community at large in the process. The plaintiffs also argue that the changes are not consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, which was revised after the fact. The three defendants recently filed their responses denying the allegations, and Waldo County Superior Court will soon issue a scheduling order, according to Belfast City Attorney Bill Kelly.

The Norwegian-based Nordic Aquafarms says it will soon file its applications for state, local and federal permits to build its $150-million facility on 42 acres of land near Little River in Belfast. If completed it would be one of the largest land-based salmon farms in the world. While supporters of the project argue it will bring in jobs and a substantial amount of tax revenue to the city, opponents worry about the potential impact of its discharges on the ocean ecosystem. Ocean and fisheries experts said at a forum back in June that the environmental impact of the facility won’t be known until after state and federal regulators receive the permit applications.

After a heated public hearing on August 15 that was heavily attended by project opponents, the Belfast Planning Board met again on August 22 to weigh in on the ordinance changes. While the board did not take any firm votes, the committee did express a need to strengthen and clarify standards around groundwater extraction. Some members of the committee also expressed doubts that changes were consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan. But whatever the planning board’s recommendation is, its advisory opinion will be non-binding. After it approves its final recommendation on Sept. 18, the board will present it to the City Council on Sept. 19. Regardless of the new process, opponents say they will continue to fight the matter in court.