ROCKLAND — The four candidates seeking a seat on the Rockland City Council have responded to questions posed by the newspaper.

The election is Nov. 8 but early voting by absentee ballot begins Oct. 11. The four candidates have agreed to participate in a candidates night organized by the newspaper which will be held 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6 at City Hall on 270 Pleasant St.

There are two seats up for election with the top two vote-getters winning a seat.

The following are the responses by the candidates. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

NATHAN DAVIS

1. Why are you running?

I think I’ve served the people of Rockland well during the three years of my first term, and I’ve built the skills and relationships that will allow me to serve them even better in a second term.

2. What will be your top priority?

Rockland should remain a place where everyone can build a fulfilling life regardless of class or background, and the greatest obstacle to that goal is our lack of affordable housing. For the past three years, I have worked tirelessly to address this crisis, for example by sponsoring legislation to allow residents and developers to build more apartments, to allow the City to impose affordability restrictions on the properties it sells, and to remove archaic and exclusionary restrictions on minimum home size. If re-elected, I will continue to make this my top priority.

3. What specific steps can the city take to address the lack of available and affordable housing?

  • Continue to reduce the barriers to development imposed by our zoning and land use code.

  • Work with developers and local housing organizations to develop properties that the City owns or acquires into affordable housing – or possibly establish a nonprofit housing authority to do this.

  • Partner with a community land trust (such as the new Midcoast Regional Housing Trust) to ensure the creation of nonprofit housing that will remain affordable in perpetuity.

  • Offer incentives like tax increment financing plans (TIFs) and credit enhancement agreements to developers who wish to build affordable housing. Create new incentives for residents whose projects don’t meet typical size thresholds for TIFs.

  • Explore rent stabilization to ensure that tenants don’t experience sudden, unwarranted spikes in rent.

4. Do you support a continued cap on non-owner occupied short-term rentals and would you support phasing out such rentals if the current owners are grandfathered?

I have never been enthusiastic about the cap because it creates classes of winners and losers, and I would like to eliminate it. While I support the ability of residents to help pay their taxes and bills through owner-occupied short-term rentals, I am in favor of phasing out non-owner occupied short-term rentals. That said, the recent discussion of this issue has led me to think that it should be decided by voters at the ballot box.

5. What is your position on spending money on the Flanagan Community Center and would you support an effort to have a new community center built?

I am committed to a vigorous recreation program for Rockland’s children and adults (including senior citizens), but I hesitate to invest more money into the Flanagan Center without a more robust plan for the Parks and Recreation Department and municipal facilities in general. Currently, the Flanagan Center is limited in the services that it can provide, and I think we should explore the creation of a community and recreation center that meets the needs of more users and offers a wider array of uses. Additionally, I have long been concerned about the accessibility of City Hall to people who don’t drive and recognize a need to consolidate municipal facilities such as the police station, and I believe we should begin a process of envisioning what a set of unified municipal facilities downtown could look like. Such a process would require resident input, support, and guidance, and the end result would ultimately be left to voters to approve, since it would almost certainly require bond funding. That said, I believe that we could be very successful in seeking grant funding and individual and business sponsorships for such a project.

6. What is your position on the ad hoc police review committee and would you support an extension of its work?

I stand by my votes to establish the committee and grant it a three-month extension. More generally, I think it’s appropriate for the City to establish a committee to examine the operations of a municipal department. I respect and esteem Chief Carroll and our police officers highly, and my willingness to see the committee through to its conclusion does not indicate a lack of support for them. It also, however, does not indicate that I will agree with the committee’s recommendations. I would be unlikely to vote to grant it a further extension, though I doubt that they will request one.

7. While large cruise ships have not been talked about much since the pandemic, what is your position on cruise ships and should a limit on the larger ones continue?

In general, I’m not opposed to cruise ships, as long as they act as good stewards of our natural environment and engage in responsible labor practices. To that end, I would rather regulate with respect to environmental and labor standards than with respect to size. We should also periodically evaluate our fee schedule to ensure that it reflects the impact of cruise ships on our facilities and infrastructure.

8. Rockland’s property taxes are often raised as an issue by people. What steps would you support to address this issue?

The single biggest thing the City can do to address property taxes is reduce zoning and procedural barriers to responsible development. Contrary to some public beliefs, the municipal government runs pretty lean, and there isn’t much that can be cut responsibly. But we can, through a combination of careful regulatory and zoning reform and active marketing and outreach, achieve denser and higher-value development along our commercial corridors and thereby broaden our tax base.

9. What actions, if any, do you think the City should take in response to climate change?

  • Encourage and incentivize weatherization and efficiency improvements, especially among low-income homeowners and owners of apartment buildings. This saves money and improves living conditions as well as reduces carbon emissions.

  • Continue to electrify our heating and transportation systems, for example by installing heat pumps and electric vehicle charging stations.

  • Continue to establish and expand pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, which improves physical and mental health as well as reduces carbon emissions.

  • Encourage dense, walkable, mixed-use development along our commercial corridors.

  • Continue to plan infrastructure improvements to address inevitable sea level rise.

  • Plant more trees.

10. Are there any zoning changes you think are needed?

Yes, many. Here are a few.

  • Combine zones to reduce their number and complexity. Our zoning map has 26 land use zones (including, for example, 4 distinct transitional business zones and 6 distinct waterfront subzones), 6 shoreland zones, and 3 overlay zones. This needless complexity hinders building and development for residents and businesses.

  • Eliminate restrictions that discourage development and provide no corresponding public benefit, for example our excessive frontage requirements.

  • Change our zoning along commercial corridors to encourage dense, walkable, mixed-use development.

  • In general, work towards zoning that respects the past but also embraces change and looks to the future.

                                                                    ADAM LACHMAN
1. Why are you running?

I am running for city council because I care deeply about our city and I am concerned about our ability to

respond to the unprecedented challenges that are affecting the quality of life for far too many Rockland residents. Issues such as a lack of accessible housing, the unsustainable tax burden, and absence of municipal revenue solutions are creating a Rockland that is increasingly unaffordable for families, hardworking individuals, and those who have historically called Rockland home. Having spent the last 20 years working to improve the lives of Mainers by bringing resources and results to communities around the state, I am uniquely qualified to bring clear and balanced solutions to help strengthen Rockland’s future. After attending almost every city council meeting over the last 3 years, it is obvious that we need to better align community priorities with the work of the council so we can implement actionable plans to address these challenges. If elected, I will use my proven economic development experience to help our city attract investment and find new sources of revenue to increase the availability of accessible housing, improve our infrastructure, grow our tax base, support workforce development, and protect our working waterfront and natural resources. Rockland has always been a place of industry and creativity. We need leadership focused on unlocking our next phase of sustainable growth and innovation while staying focused on the core needs of Rockland. I believe that our city’s best days are ahead and it would be an honor to use my experience to maximize opportunities that benefit all members of our community.

2.What will be your top priority
My top priority will be addressing our urgent housing crisis and helping the city develop revenue strategies that will lessen the tax burden on our residents. Rockland needs to be more competitive and aggressive in attracting public and private investment. As a city councilor, I will leverage my extensive experience with economic development programs to ensure Rockland is pursuing all available funding to meet the needs of our city.

3.What specific steps can the city take to address the lack of available and affordable housing?
Increasing the availability of accessible and affordable housing should be a top priority for the city. For far too long, the city has focused on reactive, regulatory remedies that alone do not address the underlying problem of the need to attract investment to create more housing units. Rockland should focus on enabling public-private partnerships and solutions that will actually start to solve the problem, including strategies to attract investment in housing. The city should prioritize incentives like an accessible housing TIF and affordable housing density bonuses that will lead to more housing units built. We should work with our city planner and the public to simplify and update our zoning, streamline our permitting and rules to encourage the construction of additional housing units, especially in underutilized upper floor buildings and areas where development would enhance the vibrancy of our city.

4.Do you support a continued cap on non-owner occupied short-term rentals and would you support phasing out such rentals if the current owners are grandfathered?
While the cap on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals has largely been effective, the focus on short-term rentals as the solution to our housing issues is misplaced. The conversation on short-term rentals distracts us from the real, hard priority work that needs to be done to ensure we have accessible housing in our city and a sustainable tax base that enables people of all means to live in Rockland. We can’t regulate our way to solve the housing crisis. Rockland needs more housing units and we need to prioritize efforts that help attract investment in the development of accessible housing.

5.What is your position on spending money on the Flanagan Community Center and would you support an effort to have a new community center built?
The Flanagan Community Center is and has been a pillar of our community, especially for Rockland’s youth. I would have voted to give Rockland voters the opportunity to decide if they wanted to preserve it and invest in its future. We need to protect our public spaces that support recreation and activities for residents of all ages, as they are a source of connection and pride that anchor us as a community. I would work to prioritize responsible investments that will ensure this essential community hub will thrive for generations to come, in addition to prioritizing investments in public spaces like outdoor basketball courts, playgrounds, and parks where youth can recreate in a safe environment. Rockland’s Rec center is an area where Rockland can and should attract public and private investment -but first we need to make it a priority. I’ve seen it firsthand in my work to help communities across our state attain the resources to improve community centers as vital hubs in their towns. With the increase in mental health issues and limited recreational opportunities, we need to invest in our youth. A well-equipped, vibrant community center is integral to the health of our community, in particular for families without means or for young people who face adversity.

6.What is your position on the ad hoc police review committee and would you support an extension of its work?
We have a new police chief who by all accounts and my conversations with him is a community focused leader with a proven track record. While the council has already voted to extend the committee’s work, I think we should focus on ways we can empower our chief and public officials to do their best work for the good of all Rockland residents. We are fortunate to live in a city where we can come together as a community to tackle issues of public safety, mental health, substance abuse, and youth development in a collaborative, constructive manner. Our public safety leaders and department play a critical role in the overall health of our community and are committed to participating alongside social service organizations and community members in addressing the challenges facing our city.

7.While large cruise ships have not been talked about much since the pandemic, what is your position on cruise ships and should a limit on the larger ones continue?
Rockland has effectively managed its relationship with cruise ships, through a transparent, public process, and if we need to revisit those agreements and rules, it should also be done in such a way that the public has ample opportunity to participate. The economic impact of tourism and the revenue collected from cruise ships are important to our economy, but at the same time, we need to make sure it improves the lives of Rockland residents and balances with the other needs of our city. Rockland’s harbor and working waterfront are critical assets for our city that drive our economy and define our identity, past, present, and future. We need to make sure any activity on the water benefits the city and protects the diversity of activities that take place on our waterfront and in our harbor. Tourism is an important part of Rockland’s vibrant economy and destination stewardship should be in line with our sustainability goals. Whether you come by car, plane, or ferry, we should welcome visitors to Rockland and ensure that Rockland benefits from tourism by providing resources to modernize our infrastructure and to help alleviate the tax burden on city residents.

8.Rockland’s property taxes are often raised as an issue by people. What steps would you support to address this issue?

Rockland needs an actionable plan to develop new revenue generation to lessen the burden of increasing property taxes. It is simply unsustainable and inappropriate for the city to continue to look to its taxpayers as the sole solution to paying for the city’s budget. Without an economic plan and marketing strategy, Rockland will continue to find itself with limited options and far too many people will be displaced because they are unable to afford to live in our city. If elected, I will bring my experience in economic development and make it a top priority for the council to prioritize efforts to attract new businesses and opportunities to diversify our tax base. We also need to have a more engaged, long-term discussion about the impact of the school budget on the city’s tax base and develop effective strategies to flatten the cost curve. Fixing this issue is going to take skilled leadership from the council, working collaboratively on equitable solutions. I am committed to working to find quick wins to lessen our tax burden, while not losing focus on core issues that will make Rockland financially sound and to ensure our city is a community that is accessible to all.

9.What actions, if any, do you think the City should take in response to climate change?

Rockland needs a long-term infrastructure and emergency management plan to prepare for increased stormwater and the impacts of rising sea level and severe weather events. By using funding from programs in the bipartisan infrastructure bill (that I helped draft and become law), Rockland can modernize its vulnerable infrastructure, while saving taxpayer money in the future. These upgrades should include upsizing culverts, investing in adequate storm water systems, while also investing in future resiliency by making sure we have adequate vulnerability mapping for sea level and other flood issues. I look forward to bringing my experience to ensure Rockland maximizes the use of these funding opportunities and is in a position to protect our neighborhoods, natural resources, and environment for future generations.We need to build on the city’s energy efficiency, weatherization, and sustainability efforts, connecting more homeowners and businesses to direct cost-saving resources to better insulate buildings and reduce the cost of energy. This is particularly important for seniors and low-income residents who struggle with rising heating and electricity costs. The city should look to apply for funding to help increase the use of heat pumps and other energy efficiency strategies in public buildings using Efficiency Maine Trust rebates. This can all be done using state and federal money, providing energy and cost savings to our city and its residents.

10.Are there any zoning changes you think are needed?

The city council should look to make changes to zoning that increase the availability of accessible and affordable housing. In talking with city staff and stakeholders, it is clear that Rockland’s zoning is over complicated, cumbersome, and too often in conflict, making it not user friendly and difficult to enforce. I would support efforts to have the city conduct a thorough review of our zoning to simplify and streamline zoning consistent with recommendations from the comprehensive plan so it reflects existing and future uses. Rockland is fortunate to have a new, experienced city planner. We should be listening to his recommendations and the public to develop policies that create economic opportunity for more Rockland residents. If elected, I look forward to working to help operationalize the good work done on the updated comprehensive plan and working to create incentives like TIFs to increase the supply of accessible and affordable housing. We need to simplify our zoning to encourage smart development and revenue generation opportunities for our city to lower our tax burden, all while protecting vulnerable residents in our community and the integrity of our neighborhoods and downtown.

                                                                 STEVEN MACDONALD

1.Why are you running?

I worked for the City of Rockland for 22 years and lived here for 44 years. I know where we have had problems in the past. I want the Council to develop long term capital plans and annual project planning. We need to stay committed to moving forward.

2.What will be your top priority?

The top priority for me is the Lindsey Brook or drainage system. With rain events due to climate change, houses along the drainage system could be severely damaged. We need a maintenance program that we follow each year. This should be a contracted program, not in house.

3.What specific steps can the city take to address the lack of available and affordable housing?

This has been a long-term problem and is in front of the council every 5 to 10 years. On recent news reports, several cities are looking to contractors to rehab old houses or apartments. Then rent them at 60% of market levels. This is tied to long term tax reductions.

4.Do you support a continued cap on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals and would you support phasing out such rentals if the current owners are grandfathered?

This is a business not a fad. This type of rental is an affordable way to help families visit to our area, and spend money in our city. All of these units need annual health and safety inspections. I would suggest and inspection fee be charged for this service.

5.What is your position on spending money on the Flanagan Community Center and would you support an effort to have a new community center built?
Before we decide that a new building is needed, we should see what could be done and what the cost would be to repair the water problems in the present building.

6.What is your position on the ad hoc police review committee and would you support an extension of its work?

I am not in favor of continuing the ad hoc police review committee. My feeling is that our Police Department is very well trained. They do a great job, but are desperately in need of more staff.

7.While large cruise ships have not been talked about much since the pandemic, what is your position on cruise ships and should a limit on the larger ones continue?

I don’t think we should stop any cruise ships from docking in our port. It is very beneficial to our city’s businesses.

8.Rockland’s property taxes are often raised as an issue by people. What steps would you support to address this issue?

To help keep property taxes from rising, expenditures should be addressed in two ways, what we need and what we want. Budget increases must total no more than 2% for the next 3 years. The Council, School Board and County need to meet monthly to address spending issues.

9.What actions, if any, do you think thisCity should take in response to climate change?
•A large solar farm could be built behind City Hall.

10.Are there any zoning changes you think are needed?
I do not know of any changes needed. I do feel that zoning chapters need to be simplified.

PENELOPE YORK

1. Why are you running?I’m from Rockland…I grew up here, graduated from Rockland High School, and I feel like I truly understand a lot of the issues that impact this community.  Not only that, but I know that a successful city councilor represents issues that impact all residents, and not just a particular viewpoint. I truly want to work with all Rockland residents to ensure that Rockland continues to be a great community where people want to live and work.2. What will be your top priority?There are so many issues impacting residents that it’s hard to just pick one item, but something that is close to my heart right now is housing, and creating a vision that includes shorter term items we can act on immediately, as well as a longer term collaborative effort that focuses on responsible growth and development. In my mind, an effective plan needs to be transparent and include specific milestones to ensure Rockland residents can live and work here without struggling under continually rising costs. 3. What specific steps can the city take to address the lack of available and affordable housing?First of all, we have to do some data collection.  It doesn’t sound very exciting, I know, but in order to fully understand the issues and urgency surrounding our housing situation, we have to be able to present the evidence and data. For example- do we understand the amount of housing needed to support the full-time employees that Rockland businesses need? This is just one example, and I don’t want to imply that employee housing our only priority, but it is an important consideration that we need a better understanding of.  Another example of where we could benefit from data collection is in a survey of all Rockland properties. We need to understand where there are vacant properties and why. In speaking with residents, I am hearing of whole multi unit buildings that are vacant right now.  Why is this? We need to be more proactive- contacting owners, inquiring about the vacancies, and developing ways to incentivize owners to create more long term rental opportunities. Once we have a better understanding of our current state and needs, my focus would be on creating more proactive community outreach programs. For example- connecting homeowners with cooperative community service programs through MCST and Oceanside…understanding how we can better support at risk populations to prevent their home from continuing down a path of decline. This approach would not only support and lift up the current homeowners, but be an investment in teaching at risk youth life skills and instilling a stronger sense of community, as well as protecting our aging housing to ensure that it is not just torn down by a future owner.Lastly, another focus I would propose would be on creating opportunities for “entry level housing.” Smaller, 1 and 2 bedroom units are rare, but are necessary to ensure that individuals of all ages can afford to live and work in Rockland. I am encouraged to hear of the proposed affordable Senior housing project on Maverick Street.  We need more of this kind of housing, for all ages and in all forms (apartments, smaller homes, and group housing options). With these kind of transparent approaches, I truly believe that we can come together as a community to solve the housing crisis that we are facing.  Everyone in Rockland benefits when all businesses can be fully staffed, when that staff lives in the community, and where we all have a path to homeownership.4. Do you support a continued cap on non-owner occupied short-term rentals and would you support phasing out such rentals if the current owners are grandfathered?It’s absolutely heart wrenching to be on social media these days and see people desperately searching for places to rent.  I don’t recall ever seeing it at this magnitude before…pillars of our community unable to locate housing so they can stay here and do their jobs.  While it’s painful to hear, I would hesitate to consider a ban without more community discussion and consideration of the data that we have on how a ban would impact housing unit availability.5. What is your position of spending money on the Flanagan Community Center and would you support an effort to have a new community center built?Yes.  I love the Flanagan Center, and what it represents to Rockland.  It’s incredibly nostalgic. It is also desperately in need of expensive repairs.  Even with repairs, as I understand it, the building has a lot of unusable space and isn’t easily able to provide more programming. I do think that it is in the best interest of the community to replace the building with something more modern, energy efficient, and with a more effective use of the square footage.  The programs taking place in this center are incredibly valuable to this community, and need to continue…we just need to understand how to grow and add to these programs, and what the best long term approach is for this building.6. What is your position on the advocate police review committee and would you support an extension of its work? Although the recent recommendation from this committee stated “A community oversight committee for the town of Rockland can be an additional resource to look for solutions to community-wide public safety issues, solicit public feedback, and ultimately work together with the RPF to improve policing in Rockland,” I don’t agree that this should be a reason to continue the committee.We have learned that community member lead committees of this nature are incredibly valuable and the feedback is critically important for helping to make improvements to process, as well as to create additional transparency within the community.  Without any actionable results or next steps, it would be my recommendation to review technology driven options for collecting ongoing feedback, and reviewing trends.  Data collected by this means could provide metrics that would help further inform the City Manager and Police Chief, should a committee be needed in the future.7. While large cruise ships have not been talked about much since the pandemic, what is your position on cruise ships, and should a limit on the larger ones continue?Initially, my thoughts around cruise ships are:Yes, we should continue to limit them, but work closely with the Harbormaster to ensure that we can share the benefits with the citizens. (For example, when a ship is planned, let’s tell everyone what it is, how much they will pay to dock, and where that money is actually going). Secondly, knowing that the harbormaster’s office is one of the few city departments that is income producing, what can we do to leverage these cruise ships to promote Rockland differently? I’m not suggesting increasing them, but taking better advantage of them.  We know that they are generally in Rockland Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays…what can we do to better capitalize on this without changing the way that the traffic is managed today? Why don’t we have a maker’s market in Harbor Park on Wednesday? Also, as an ongoing plan, how can we leverage those relationships to offset the shorter term needs of dock and pilon maintenance and replacement?  Managing this properly could help avoid future tax increases as a result of these needs.8. Rockland’s property taxes are often raised as an issue by people. What steps would you support to address this issue?I think that transparency goes a long way and taxes feel a lot like buyers remorse sometimes.  If people saw a break down of what that money was going to when they received their bill, I think it would help address the concerns.  When there is a referendum or bond, it would also be great to see the impact to taxes as well.  For example, if there is a 2 million bond for road maintenance, how much of that would actually be passed on to the individual taxpayer?  Knowing that at the time of voting would likely have a huge impact up front.9. What actions, if any, do you think that the city should take in response to climate change? We are a coastal community.  It would be irresponsible of us to not consider what rising tides and more severe weather could do to our community and our way of life.  Do we know how much tidal increase the breakwater can withstand? How can we be prepared to insulate downtown businesses and property owners from insurance rate increases? What proactive measures can be taken to prevent flooding?I look forward to consulting with volunteer committees, and reviewing the detailed recommendations within the 2022 Comprehensive plan to ensure that as Councilor, I am assisting the City in its response to change and development of a resilient strategic approach. 10. Are there any zoning changes that you think are needed? It is my understanding that our new Comprehensive plan is under review by the state.  I have read the 2002 plan, but although I have not had the opportunity to read the new plan in its entirety, I did note that there are many suggestions in regards to zoning issues and how to respond to them.  It is also my understanding that the staff is currently reviewing Chapter 19 for updates.  I look forward to having the opportunity to get up to speed on the work underway, and progress being made. I am challenging myself to spend time with the Chair of the Committee to ensure I understand each recommendation at a granular level, help prioritize the work, and ensure that the plan is incorporated directly into the strategic plan for the city.