Neighbors speak out against hotel parking plan

City Councilor: Zone change is DOA
By Daniel Dunkle | Feb 04, 2014
Photo by: Daniel Dunkle Rockland resident Amy Files voices opposition to a proposed parking lot in her neighborhood near the train station Feb. 3 at a City Council meeting.

Rockland — About 10 neighbors attended the Feb. 3 City Council meeting to oppose a planned parking lot off Brick Street near the railroad tracks. A zone change for the lot is needed to help developers move forward with plans for a five-story hotel on Main Street.

Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding, represented at the meeting by Drew Lyman, wants to build the parking lot at the corner of Brick and Pleasant streets near the train station and Trackside Restaurant.

Since 2010, Lyman-Morse has been planning to construct a five-story building at 250 Main St., but the project has been delayed. The company now hopes to change the project from the previously proposed condominiums to a hotel, and use the Brick Street parcel, two blocks away, to meet its parking requirements. The plan is for valet parking with an attendant shuttling cars back and forth between Main Street and the lot.

Since part of the location for the parking lot is in a residential zone, it would require City Council to add it to the commercial zone.

Neighbors, including Amy Files, Alexander Shaw and Gretchen Kuhn spoke out against the proposal.

Former Mayor Tom Molloy also criticized the proposed zone change, calling it "blatant spot zoning."

Neighbor Debbie Atwell said it was not the neighborhood's duty to solve Cabot Lyman's parking problem.

Atwell said the council faced making a landmark decision on the proposed hotel, one that could affect the community's visual inheritance for the next century.

After a lengthy discussion of possible parking alternatives, Councilor Eric Hebert said he saw the zone change proposal as "Dead On Arrival." He said he normally would allow a proposal to go forward for discussion purposes, at least through the first reading, but said this was something he would not even support putting on the agenda for next week's council meeting.

Hebert said that when the council makes a zone change, that means allowing every other use that is allowed in the commercial zone in that spot in the future. He said that while they are talking about a parking lot now, this zone change could mean a different use for that property in the future.

Mayor Larry Pritchett said council was hesitant to go forward with a zone change.

Council instead is asking city staff to help Lyman look for alternatives. It was suggested at the meeting that the company look into getting the state to expand existing parking at the train station or using spaces at nearby Midcoast Mental Health.

Lyman said he had looked into parking at Trackside and the train station, but could not find a way to have guaranteed overnight parking there.

Councilor Frank Isganitis, who sponsored the proposed zoning amendment, said the Maine Department of Transportation could put parking in the same spot now, even without the zone change.

Pritchett said Feb. 4 that because it involves transportation, parking expansion is allowed for the train station. One alternative to the zone change could be exploring whether the state would develop the parking lot at the site in a way that could be shared with Lyman-Morse and others, he said.

Isganitis withdrew his proposal to put the zoning change on next week's agenda.

Lyman said during a break in the meeting the plan is for a high-end "boutique" hotel in the proposed Main Street building with 26-28 rooms.

Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson said the Lyman-Morse project has sat there for a number of years without being completed, creating a concern in the community. She said it has become an "eyesore" and wanted to know how the city could prevent projects from being started and left incomplete in the future.

"We want the building built as much as everyone else," Lyman said. He said the company just needs to figure out the parking issue, but added it has put $500,000 into the project and will move forward with it.

It was also pointed out the meeting that the building permit Lyman-Morse had originally received for the five-story building has expired, so the project will have to go back to the planning board before any construction there can continue.

Courier-Gazette Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at ddunkle@villagesoup.com or 594-4401 ext. 122.

Drew Lyman, foreground, represents Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding to City Council Feb. 3. With him at the table are Code Officer John Root, attorney Kevin Beal, Mayor Larry Pritchett and acting City Manager Tom Luttrell. (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
Neighbors turn out to a City Council meeting to voice opposition to a proposed parking lot at the corner of Brick and Pleasant streets. (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
The foundation at 250 Main Street where Lyman-Morse has been planning a five-story building since 2010. (Source: File photo)
Comments (10)
Posted by: David E Myslabodski | Feb 06, 2014 08:40

To A F and to other neighbors in the area:

I am guessing that all your neighbors and most of the people in Rockland agree with you. The issue is that the Council not always agrees with the people. Some people, all they care is "what is good for business" [their business, of course!] regardless the consequences to the neighborhood. The original building project was faulty since day one and it is not for your neighborhood to be the ones that pay for a business mistake. The original building permit has expired, so you and all your neighbors must keep and eye and let your voice be heard next time they apply for a new permit. Let us ensure that no parking lot is built in the midst of a neighborhood and that, if they decide to build a building on main St, it fits its surroundings.



Posted by: Amy Files | Feb 05, 2014 23:27

Thank you to Dan Dunkle for covering this meeting! A couple of responses to the comments:

• putting a parking garage in on a residential street is Commercial no matter what you put on top of it - it would create a WHOLE lot more traffic than the residents that currently live on the street would want to deal with — I'm sure that anyone of you who owns a home on a residential street could understand not wanting a lot of increased commercial traffic at all hours of night - it's not what we moved here for and when we bought our homes in a Residential zone - we expected it to stay that way (zones can't and shouldn't be arbitrarily changed for a private business interest)

• the new hotel might bring in some jobs - but other hotels and inns would lose jobs - so the overall outcome might not really benefit the city... and if the hotel can't make it - because it wasn't a well thought-out idea in the first place... what are we left with? A big empty building? (like most of Boston Financial and Amalfi's are right now)

• saying no to some businesses that want to build at the expense of residents does not always mean bad business for the city - invested year-round residents are important to keeping the year-round businesses here running. And there are a lot of new residents moving to town right now - 18 homes in our neighborhood alone sold in 2013 - 18 homes!!! - and the people moving here are being attracted to Rockland's unique small-scale character - they aren't moving here because they want parking lots to be built next door - or their next door neighbor's house torn down. If we don't protect the good things that we have going - we'll shoot ourselves in the foot and run these new people right on out

• I am one of these new people - I am starting my business here (and not asking any zone changes to do it) - I might be able to add employees in the near future - I am hiring local contractors to fix up my home - I shop at my local co-op (which in turn supports local farmers, fisherman and producers), at Jesse's, and other local businesses - almost every dollar I spend is re-invested into this community. And there are others just like me who are also moving into this neighborhood - we are worth $ to Rockland. We might be small and not big private businesses - but when you add us all up we are a great resource. Rockland needs to start seeing the value in its year-round residents and local economy instead of thinking the only way to bring money into town is through seasonal tourism... I mean, think about it - we have all these seasonal businesses and then half the year people are out of work and looking for jobs... we can do better than this! Instead of a hotel, what if a small community college, tech school, or maker/craft school was going in? What if a shared office/conference space with hi-speed wi-fi to support all of our small, home-based businesses went in? Rockland needs to start thinking outside of the box - do we really need more hotels when the ones that we already have are struggling to fill their rooms tonight?



Posted by: Susan P Reitman | Feb 05, 2014 12:29

New article in the Village Soup "65 Room Hotel Planned For Rockland Waterfront."  This is a hotel that should be built in Rockland and I pray that this project moves forward.  Mr. Lyman, I think, is a boat builder and he should go back to building boats because his plans for the corner lot in Rockland was so misguided from the very start.  I also DO NOT understand why the plan was approved by the City in the first place because of the lack of parking.  I wish someone would build a single family home above a garage on the lot with beautiful landscaping that would really dress up the corner.



Posted by: John Snow | Feb 05, 2014 08:47

If Mr Lyman simply bought the next house up Pleasant Street, couldn't that become his lot?  He just has to make an offer they can't refuse---I'm sure another $500,000 would do the trick.



Posted by: Frank Brown | Feb 05, 2014 00:04

This is the third article I have read on today's news feed alone that is showing businesses being stopped or delayed for different reasons. People wonder why the economy is poor. We have a business men and women that are trying to make a living, that are trying to bring jobs and dollars to this town and they are being shot down.



Posted by: David E Myslabodski | Feb 04, 2014 13:56

This will be an interesting decision for the Council. Does the Council cares for average Rocklanders or have they bought into the myth that what is good for business is good for Rockland. First, they modify existing code and allow a five level building and now are considering another code change for the benefit of a single business. Now that the original construction permit has expired the Council must use this opportunity to re-evaluate the project and insure that whatever is built follows existing code [no exceptions] and fits its surroundings. Affordable housing for average Rocklanders would be nice



Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Feb 04, 2014 13:13

I agree with Susan. A home built over a garage is just the right use of this corner lot. Mr. Lyman is dreaming big and hopefully the city will stop the project in its tracks. The beauty of Rockland is it's uniqueness. Rockland did have a hotel but now it is converted into apartments. I am sure some of us old timers remember.

Mickey McKeever



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo | Feb 04, 2014 12:13

Here's an idea. Lyman can use some of Isganitis' parking at his business. I don't for one minute think the Maine DOT will ever need more parking. Time to get some common sense on the council.



Posted by: Susan P Reitman | Feb 04, 2014 10:46

My suggestion for the lot is a single family home built on top of an above ground garage.  You can find plans for this type of home on the internet and some of them are beautiful and very functional for a small lot and it solves the parking problem for the resident of the home.  The City of Rockland would win because the home would generate real estate taxes for the City so it will not be a total loss.



Posted by: Susan P Reitman | Feb 04, 2014 10:30

Poor Mr. Lyman spending $500.000 for a fiasco project.  Years ago when this all started I kept asking WHERE IS THE PARKING but when I asked the question no one could answer it.  Anyone in their right mind could see that parking was going to be a problem for the people who worked and lived in the condos he was planning.  Now they want to take a quiet residential neighborhood and have valet parking running up and down the streets at all hours of the night.  If the City approves this boondoggle it will be a crying shame. Mr. Lyman should remove the eyesore from the corner, cut his losses, lick his wounds, and move on.  The City of Rockland can find better uses for the corner lot but no matter what there is still going to be a parking problem at that corner.



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Dan Dunkle
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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 for 15 years.

 

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