Updated: Neighbors meet, raise concerns about five-story hotel
Rockland — A group of about eight Rockland residents from the Pleasant Street neighborhood have started meeting to discuss their concerns about the proposed five-story hotel at the corner of Main and Pleasant streets.
The group has circulated a petition asking the Planning Board to slow down the approval process for the 26-room hotel, and it has about 20 signatures, according to Debby Atwell of the group.
The hotel is being developed by ADZ Properties, which is affiliated with Cabot Lyman of Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding.
"South End neighbors met in a neighbor's home Friday [May 2] to share their concerns over the structure and design of Cabot Lyman's hotel..." Atwell wrote in an email press release. "Central to the group's distress is that they believe the protective intention of the downtown zoning ordinance is being defied to usher in an over-sized, towering hotel that bears no resemblance or relationship to the historic feel of the mixed-use and residential neighborhood."
Amy Files of Pleasant Street said the City Council should officially request that the Planning Board require a traffic study.
Ron Huber criticized the hotel project as "ungainly," "out of scale," and a "menace," at the May 5 City Council meeting.
“Regarding traffic issue, Cabot Lyman has from the beginning and will continue to work with the town on this and all concerns," said Lyman-Morse spokesperson Marnie Read. "Just a reminder, this hotel will have 26 rooms, roughly translating into 26 cars. It really is a question of proportionality; I would say that most businesses in town have more than 26 customers drive in per day. One of the best features of the hotel is that Rockland’s shops, museums, galleries and restaurants are in walking distance. No cars needed once here.”
A public hearing will be held on the project Tuesday, May 20, at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall.
Presently, the plan includes no parking on-site at the hotel, but parking over by Midcoast Mental Health. The plan is to provide valet parking from the hotel to the off-site parking lot.
Files said she is concerned about the traffic pressure that could be put on the corner of Main and Pleasant if multiple customers show up to the hotel at the same time. Atwell said delivery trucks will have to park on Pleasant Street where there is a side door.
Code Enforcement Officer John Root said the Planning Board will review these concerns about vehicles arriving at the hotel, but said a traffic study is more often called for in the case of a business like a fast food restaurant where hundreds of trips per day are anticipated. He said a restaurant would attract far more traffic than a 26-room hotel, and in those cases the state transportation department requires a traffic study.
However, he added, the hotel will have to meet standards for vehicle access, loading and unloading outlined in city ordinances.
Root also answered questions raised about how long the height limit has been 65 feet in the downtown zone and whether that zone had been extended to include that area recently. He told the council going back to 1962, the block including Pleasant Street and Main was commercial and in 1983, the height limit was five stories and 65 feet for commercial buildings. Those standards had not changed, though the zone later was changed to downtown in 1996, he said.
He provided comparison heights for buildings in the city. The Trade Winds is 55 feet high; the new blending building at FMC is 54 feet; the syndecate building is 55 feet to the roof and 61 feet with antennas; the five-story hotel will be almost 57 feet to the roof and 65 feet to the top of the elevator shaft.
Files sees the Pleasant Street neighborhood in Rockland as a "magnet neighborhood." In recent years it has attracted a number of 30-something professionals, she said, with 18 homes selling in the area in 2013.
The resident argues putting a five-story hotel building up in a residential neighborhood is not protecting it.
Files and other members of the group say they are also concerned with how quickly projects move through the approval process at Planning Board and the pressure developers place on the board to approve them. Files said in some meetings a developer will threaten to not go forward with the project if it is not approved due to concerns about standards in the ordinance, essentially saying, "We can't do any better than this."
The neighbors have started a Facebook page to offer a place to talk about their concerns at facebook.com/weloveourtown.
A May 1 posting on the site states: "Tell the Planning Board at the May 20th Public Hearing that this project should not be approved until they have applied for this pick-up/drop-off zone and a proper traffic impact study has been done. Approval of the project before these issues have been vetted means automatic approval of a request parking that normally would need to go through proper committee consideration."
Files, who moved to the city with her partner in 2012 and has family ties to the area, said she has met several young couples moving into her neighborhood who were drawn by the walkable downtown, a great community for locally sourced food and the ability to work from home by telecommuting.
They hope to keep the neighborhood residential in character.
Courier Publications News Director Daniel Dunkle can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 122, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Daniel Dunkle is editor of The Courier-Gazette and news director for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, who also works for Courier Publications, and two children.
Dunkle has previously served as editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. He has worked as a reporter and photographer in the Midcoast since 1998.