Neighbors speak out against hotel parking planCity Councilor: Zone change is DOA
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 594-4401 ext. 122.
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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.