Planning Board approves Lyman hotel plan
Rockland — The Planning Board approved Cabot Lyman's proposed 26-suite, $2.9 million hotel June 10.
The issue of one short-term parking space available for hotel use received almost no attention other than from board member Kyle Swan.
"How do you deal with people walking up (to the hotel) with suitcases when you don't have one parking spot?" Swan asked Lyman.
But with the hour approaching 8 p.m., Planning Board members approved the hotel site plan, including approval of hotel design standards being met by a vote of 4-0-1 with Swan abstaining. He said it was unusual to approve such a large project without a site visit by the board first.
The board also approved more than 30 findings as read by Chairman Erik Laustsen, which passed 5-0.
Planning Board member Charles Jordan Jr. said he would vote for site plan approval because the project would not cause harm to the area neighborhood as many have described. He said in future years, the public will "look back" and see that the hotel was a good fit for the downtown area.
Lyman responded that there is plenty of public parking in the area, which would include his proposed 30-space off site parking lot leased from the Maine Department of Transportation. Lyman even said he could provide shuttle service if needed.
The site plan as approved includes a finding that "parking options will be explained to guests" before arrival. Among five conditions imposed with the findings is that any sidewalk improvements must be approved by city Code Enforcement and the Public Works Department.
City resident Sandra Schramm — one of several audience members making public comments before a presentation from Lyman and Scattergood Design architects T. Scott Teas and Pamela Hawkes — asked for the project not to be approved until valet parking issues are resolved.
Later, following a question from Planning Board member Peta vanVuuren about using valets to take hotel guests to the parking lot, Teas finally addressed the issue.
"That's off the table," Teas said.
Lyman did say he would consider a sidewalk extension from the parking lot to the hotel corner at Pleasant and Main streets, and may also consider trees as part of overall landscaping. Neither are required within the Downtown Zone.
City Clerk Stuart Sylvester said earlier this week that any change to public parking spaces, such as making a two-hour public parking space a 15-minute parking space, would require City Council approval. All changes to the code require council approval, he emphasized.
Lyman said the current design of his proposed hotel is still much like it was in 2010, when it received a design award from the Friends of Midcoast Maine.
Despite requesting a traffic study concerning the proposed hotel, Planning Board members also spent next to no time discussing the study's findings. The study was prepared May 30 by Maine Traffic Resources of Gardiner and included in Scattergood Design architects' most recent architectural renderings submitted to the city June 4.
Its findings determined that Lyman's hotel as proposed is not expected to generate any adverse traffic impacts.
“Generally, a project will have no significant impact on traffic operations unless it generates in excess of 25 trips per lane per hour,” the study finds. “This is expected to be a conservative estimate and actual trip generation will likely be much less. This level of traffic, with a maximum of 16 lane hour trips, is not expected to have any significant impact on off-site traffic operations.”
Teas said he was not going to discuss traffic study, except to offer that "25 trips per lane is a relatively low number" for a hotel to generate. And there is adequate parking in the area, he added.
As was the case May 20 during a public hearing, public comments before the Planning Board were weighted against the project.
Rockland resident Maggie Trout said Lyman's project should be under consideration as a short-term operation with a one-week minimum stay. That would cut down on its traffic impact, she said.
Resident George Terrien, who has written at least one letter opposing the hotel, again argued that with respect to its height, size, and scale, the hotel "is not compatible with its surroundings."
But City Attorney Kevin Beal gave a memorandum to board members, which he said states that they have considered site compatibility standards appropriately. There's a fair amount of law precedents in Maine concerning design compatibility standards, but in general, it's up to the board to use its best judgment, Beal said.
Litigation has resulted when it has been found that new projects devalue existing ones, Beal added.
Not all comments were against the project. "I got a sense of what this neighborhood is going to look like with this new building," said resident Dan Bookham, who added that Lyman is staying "true to his vision of what is economically viable" for the city.
The Maine Traffic Resources study also found:
- There are no high-crash locations in the hotel study area;
- Adequate sidewalks are provided on both Main and Pleasant streets;
- That moving a crosswalk to the Main/Pleasant intersection will allow better visibility;
- There are 15 public parking spaces within a one-block area including the Public Landing to accommodate parking needs;
- Overall annual traffic volumes in the Park Street (Route 1) and Main Street vicinities were on the decline during a nine-year period studied from 2002 to 2011.
Parking for guests is proposed to come from a 30-space parking lot leased from the Maine Department of Transportation. Lot entry would come from Union Street through the Mid-Coast Mental Health Center, with a second access route from 70 Park St. near Eastern Tire.
The most recent design modifications from Teas and Hawkes state that “A roof deck is not currently planned, and no public roof access will be allowed. The habitable fifth floor is 56 feet, 6 inches, with elevator machinery expected to rise no more than six feet above the roof. Solar collectors, at 72 feet, will be the highest point of the hotel.
Lyman, who owns Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding of Thomaston, has filed hotel plans under the name ADZ Properties.
Courier Publications reporter Larry Di Giovanni can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 117, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
207 594-4401 ext. 117
Larry Di Giovanni, a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, is returning to his daily reporting roots in order to cover the city of Rockland for The Courier-Gazette. Originally from Athens, Ohio, his family includes one son, Tony.
Di Giovanni has covered news beats ranging from the city of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., to the largest tribal government in the United States — the Navajo Nation. He has also worked as a writer in the public education and higher education fields. He's an animal enthusiast and loves dogs.
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