Rockport officials hear Commercial Street revision ideas
Rockport — Ways to beautify and improve a stretch of Route 1 from Maverick Street in Rockland to Warrenton Street in Glen Cove have been collected and a preliminary design was presented to the Rockport Select Board at its monthly meeting Oct. 15.
Jane LeFleur, executive director of Friends of Midcoast Maine, presented ideas to the board that outlined changes to zoning and landscape that in the future will allow for better usage.
“Walkability is one of the main things that we look for to improve some of these areas,” said LeFleur. “Having true city neighborhoods with connecting cross streets will allow for residents to safely walk to where they are going.”
The vision of bringing commercial buildings to the front of the lots and moving parking behind them to create a more inviting and visually pleasing area is one of the many ideas expressed by LeFleur. Trees lining the middle of Route 1, separating north and southbound traffic, curbing, sidewalks, bump outs and more of a combination of commercial and residential properties are some of the things the plan calls for.
“It may take 20 years for this to happen, but when it does, this is how it could look,” she said.
The city of Rockland and the town of Rockport are working in conjunction with Friends of Midcoast Maine on the project and Rockport Select Board Chairman William Chapman feels the biggest obstacle in the way of the project is the Department of Transportation.
“The top problem will be the Department of Transportation,” Chapman said. “They have so far been very unwilling to consider a slower speed on Commercial Street north from the city/town line. Without a lower speed limit, additional curb cuts will be nearly impossible.”
He added, “Without the cooperation of the state and DOT, changes like those presented by Jane LaFleur Tuesday night will be impossible in Glen Cove.”
Starting at the town line near Home Depot, stretching north to Warrenton Street in Glen Cove is a section of Commercial Street that Chapman feels is prime and ready for expansion, but feels that Rockland is much further ahead in the process.
“Actually, I think Rockland is a lot closer to accomplishing any vision that might be adopted coming out of this process simply because of their City Council form of government,” Chapman said. “But, even on their end, it will take dedication to the adopted vision to bring forth the necessary zoning changes and attitude adjustments.”
For Rockport, the biggest obstacle may be convincing Glen Cove property owners the changes will be for the better. Next Chapman said the plan would have to go to the ordinance review committee, then the select board. If approved by the select board, the plan would go to the voters in Rockport to approve special higher density for that section of Route 1.
“I think Glen Cove is in a good position to benefit from a higher density of businesses, closer to Route 1, coupled with limited on-street parking, pushing the parking behind the businesses as a result,” Chapman said. ”This combined with smaller housing [800 to 1200 square feet] would create an urbanesque version of what is going on at The Villages of Rockport across from Downeast Magazine.”
He added, “The Glen Cove area east of Commercial Street has the potential for additional village-like development.”
Friends of Midcoast Maine and the Rockland Economic Development Advisory Committee have worked hard to open the landscape of the focus area to other possibilities, other then those that it is currently used for, he said.
“In Rockport, when we put our land use ordinances and zoning into effect, we overlaid the zoning on what was already there, effectively trying to freeze any out-of-control development that could destroy the beauty and vision of what Rockport was,” Chapman said. “With careful thought and planning, we [the select board] could see changes that benefit the town without creating the feared suburban landscape.”
Chapman feels at the same time, residents of Rockport need to be aware of the changing demographics of the nation, Maine, Knox County and Rockport.
“An aging population coupled with smaller families wanting to be in a safe environment where the automobile no longer rules all aspects of life is the idea,” he said.
Friends of Midcoast Maine and the REDC will continue their workshops with a Walkability Audit done by Dan Burden of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute in late October.
For more information about the study or a list of upcoming workshops visit the Friends of Midcoast Maine website at friendsmidcoast.org.
Courier Publications reporter Dwight Collins can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
(207) 236-8511 ext. 303
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