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Board supports no off-street parking requirements

By Gabriel Blodgett | Jan 14, 2020
Photo by: Gabriel Blodgett The Rockport Select Board voted to support the elimination of off-street parking requirements in the village.

Rockport — The Select Board unanimously voted to express their support for eliminating off-street parking requirements in downtown Rockport.

The vote came at the Jan. 13 meeting, after news that several town employees have embarked on an updated parking survey to provide a more accurate look at the availability of on-street parking in the downtown village area.

The vote also comes on the heels of the first meeting of the Ordinance Review Committee on Jan. 8, during which Town Planner Bill Najpauer said parking was one of the primary areas of focus.

The new survey by Najpauer, Police Chief Randy Gagne and Planning Board Chair Joe Sternowski, will update a similar survey, completed in 2009, by then Town Planner Tom Ford and Code Enforcement Officer Scott Bickford, and aims to inform town boards and committees and help them draft policy that better reflects the current situation.

The issue of parking in the village has recently risen to the forefront of town politics with discussion of the proposed 35-room hotel on the vacant 20 Central St. lot.

The Planning Board has twice voted to continue its consideration of the project over parking concerns, most recently asking the applicants to receive approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals to meet the off-street parking requirements with 34 satellite spaces at a different location in town. That meeting will take place Wednesday Jan. 22.

At the Jan. 13 Select Board meeting, Vice Chair Denise Kennedy-Munger said the current language in the ordinance creates an “impossible hurdle” for businesses interested in locating in the village.

“We don’t want to send a message out there that we’re not willing to work with businesses in the downtown area,” said Kennedy-Munger.

Doug Cole stated that in a January 2013 Ordinance Review Committee meeting, the committee voted to exempt downtown businesses on Central Street from the parking requirements but “the ball got dropped,” and the revision was never put into ordinance form and never made it to the town warrant.

The current ordinance allows for the Planning Board to waive parking requirements but Select Board Chair Debra Hall said that opens the door for unequal or inconsistent treatment.

The ORC is tasked with making recommendations to the Select Board for changes to the town’s ordinances, which will then have to go before voters at the June election, so the vote was merely a public show of support for eliminating parking requirements, rather than a formal change in policy.

Other Select Board meeting notes

The board voted to formally reopen bidding for the former Rockport Elementary School site. Developers are now once again able to submit qualifications until Feb. 28. The Request for Qualifications is available on the town’s website. The previous bidding window closed with a single applicant, Rockport Crossing, who will present to the RES Redevelopment Committee at their Jan. 30 meeting.

At the Dec. 12 meeting, the Committee recommended the Select Board reopen the bidding as several developers had expressed interest in the project to Town Manager William Post and Najpauer but were unable to submit bids in the first opening.

The Select Board also approved nine applicants for the Comprehensive Plan Committee, which is scheduled to meet once a month for the next year to craft the document intended to guide town policy for the next 10 years.

Victoria Condon, Robert Rankin Young, Robert Duke, Taylor Allen, Dominic Cordisco, Sally Cook, Richard Anderson, Louisa Van Baalen, and David Cockey were unanimously approved by the board.

There are two spots left on the committee for the public.

Max MacCoole was also named to the Zoning Board of Appeals, taking the place of Emily Lusher who resigned in December.

The board voted to spend $8,232.67 from the Fire Department Radio Reserve to replace the tower at the public safety building. Initially the plan was to replace only the antennas on the tower, but an inspection showed cracks in the structure that warranted replacement.

 

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