Hold off on banning smoking in parks, nix bond referendum for roads

Council gives OK to Tillson Avenue zone change

By Stephen Betts | Sep 10, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts A developer is considering a commercial/residential project in the Tillson Avenue area.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council gave final approval Monday evening, Sept. 9, to amending the zoning along Tillson Avenue to allow residences.

The 5-0 vote was prompted by the announcement a week earlier by the city manager that a developer wants to create a commercial/residential development in that area.

Councilor Valli Geiger urged approval of the zone change that will allow residences on upper floors of buildings in the waterfront zone of Tillson Avenue. "This is an opportunity to add to Rockland's tax base. It would be a tragedy to once again lose an opportunity," Geiger said.

City Manager Tom Luttrell said he had few details about the proposed project, but there was a person interested in a mixed-use development. The specific property has not been provided to the city.

The City Council gave preliminary approval to the change at its April 8 meeting.

Final approval was put off, however, after a major mixed-use project proposed for the former Bicknell Manufacturing property was scuttled by Dupont's purchase of the property May 1.

Valerie Landsburg had proposed a development that would have included retail shops, offices and residences. She did not have a purchase-and-sale agreement, however, and DuPont -- which opposed Landsburg's development -- bought the land to prevent the project from occurring.

The company said it had no plans for the property, but opposed residences next to an industrial area.

Geiger had asked in May whether the city could take the Bicknell property by eminent domain. The city attorney advised that could not be done without giving Dupont the opportunity to develop it. The city has not taken any steps toward such an action.

Smoking ban put on hold

The council also voted 4-1 at its Sept. 9 meeting to defeat a proposed ordinance that would prohibit smoking in city parks. Councilors voiced concern about the penalty part of the ordinance, which could lead to people being banned from those city-owned lands if they repeatedly violated the law.

Instead, councilors said they would wait for the Parks and Recreation Committee to come up with a revised policy that would not have penalties attached.

The council had given the ordinance preliminary approval at its Aug. 12 meeting.

The proposed ordinance stated "Smoking, vaping, and the use of all tobacco and electronic smoking devices is prohibited in all parks, recreational areas and sporting venues, and public buildings."

A first violation would have resulted in a warning. A second violation during a one-year period would have resulted in the offender's being banned from the premises where the violation occurred for six months. A third or subsequent violation during the year would have resulted in a one-year ban from the premises.

No road referendum

The City Council also voted 3-2 (with Mayor Lisa Westkaemper and Councilors Ed Glaser and Amelia Magjik opposed) not to hold a bond referendum in November asking voters to approve borrowing money for more road paving and storm water/sewer line separations.

The rejection came after Luttrell recommended that instead, he would budget $300,000 to $500,000 annually to catch up and maintain roads.

The manager said that public services concluded it would take $7.8 million to maintain the city's 57 miles of roads. The city manager said budgeting annually would save money over borrowing.

Harbor channel

And the City Council also voted 4-1 (with Westkaemper opposed) to give final approval to specifying in the city's ordinances where the southern channel in Rockland Harbor is located.

The Harbor Commission had voted unanimously Aug. 20 to recommend that the southern channel be located as it is written in the current city ordinance, but then extended in a straight line from 400 yards to 1,000 yards.

This is different from where the existing channel is located, although within the first 400 yards it is practically the same.

The one difference between what the Harbor Commission recommended and what was approved Sept. 9 by the council was the inclusion by the council of a 20-foot buffer on both sides of the 80-foot wide channel.

The city manager said inclusion of the buffer would require moving about 10 more moorings.

The buffer had been sought by the citizen group Sensible Harbor Infrastructure Plan.

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