UPDATED: Brass Compass issue headed back to city councilMayor: 'I'm all for it.'
Rockland — In what is becoming a spring tradition in Rockland, city council will look at a request from the Brass Compass Cafe to have outdoor seating in part of the neighboring Winslow-Holbrook Memorial Park.
The restaurant has been providing outdoor seating in the park at the corner Park and Main Streets since 2005.
"I'm all for it," said Mayor Will Clayton March 4.
Timeline of Brass Compass controversy
April — Some Rockland businesses sign petition against tables in the park. Local veterans oppose the use of the park.
April 9 — City council votes 3-2 to reject Brass Compass use of Winslow-Holbrook Park. Councilors Elizabeth Dickerson and Will Clayton voted to approve it.
May 14 — City council votes 3-2 again to shoot down the tables at the park. The council talked about plans for granite tables and improvements to the park.
May 22 — City workers chop down aspen tree in Winslow-Holbrook Park.
June 5 — Tensions run high at city council. Mayor Brian Harden throws his hat at Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson during a council meeting, and she throws it back. She then overturns a near-empty soda can in front of Harden's seat.
June 11 — Council votes 5-0 to allow some tables in the park at a cost to Brass Compass of $1,200.
Nov. 6 — Mayor Brian Harden, who voted against the tables in the park twice in the spring, was defeated in the election for city council by Frank Isganitis. Will Clayton would be elected mayor.
Feb. 25 — Brass Compass owner Lynn Archer applies to city to use 12-foot strip of park for tables.
On Feb. 25, Brass Compass Owner Lynn Archer submitted a letter to the city seeking to use a 12-foot-wide strip bordering the building at 305 Main St. for outside food service.
The park serves as a memorial to two World War I veterans. Family members of those veterans, American Legion Post veterans and some local business people have argued in the past that the park should be reserved for a memorial.
The tables were the subject of a lengthy and heated controversy in Rockland City Council meetings in spring 2012. Asked if she expected this to happen again this year, Archer said, "I hope not."
"It's a different council," the restaurant owner said in by phone March 4. "It's a different economy. People are needing their jobs."
She said she hopes the council will look on the issue favorably rather than having the community "up in arms" as it was last year.
The 12-foot-wide space is what the restaurant was able to use the year before last at a cost of $25 per table, according to Archer. She said last year the council, when it finally allowed tables at all, charged her $1,200 for the use of a six-foot-wide space.
She said she doesn't believe it is fair to deny her the use of the park on the grounds that it remembers veterans. She noted that the park next to Dunkin' Donuts in Rockland has been used for parking for free for years.
If there is a limit on use of memorial parks, she said it should be across-the-board in the city, not just for The Brass Compass.
Clayton said he does not see the controversy heating up like it did last year in part because he believes frustrations were vented last year and in part because there are new personalities this year.
Mayor Brian Harden, who opposed the tables in the park last year, was defeated in the November election by Frank Isganitis and Clayton was elected mayor by the new council.
City Manager James Smith said the council will have the flexibility to determine whether to allow the tables. He said the council plans to look in April at the cost of proposed improvements to the park, but said even if the improvements are made, the council could decide to let The Brass Compass usage co-exist in the park.
The council will look at the letter at its meeting Monday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be an agenda-setting meeting in preparation for next week's city council meeting.
News Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @DanDunkle.