To our readers,

The COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-century type story, ... Click here to continue

Proposed ordinance in response to plans to demolish commercial building at Park and Main

Council to vote on law to regulate downtown parking lots

By Stephen Betts | Oct 07, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts 279 Main St. in Rockland.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council will consider a local law that would require any proposed downtown parking lots to go before the Planning Board where conditions could be placed on any such project.

The proposed ordinance is in response to a proposal by the owner of 279 Main St. to demolish a commercial building and turn it into a parking lot.

Councilor Valli Geiger said the ordinance would make parking lots a conditional use downtown rather than its current permitted use. That would mean such a project would have to go before the Planning Board which could place conditions on it.

The Council will take a preliminary vote on the matter at its Wednesday, Oct. 14 meeting. A formal public hearing and final vote would then be likely on Nov. 9.

The Planning Board is already scheduled to review at its Oct. 20 meeting the application submitted on behalf of 279 Main St. LLC and its owner Crystal Darling to demolish most of the building at this address.

The detailed plans submitted to the city Oct. 6 show that the smaller southern section of the building where Frank's Family Hair Care, and Breakwater Design and Build Inc. are leasing would remain standing. The bulk of the building – including where Park Street Grille has leased since 2004 would be demolished.

The city's attorney Mary Costigan is working on the proposed ordinance to make it retroactive so that the 279 Main St. project would have to follow the new requirement.

Most of the tenants in the building had been unaware of the planned demolition of the building until after the initial application was filed with the city's code office on behalf of the owner on Sept. 14.

The estimated cost of the project is $175,000. The parking lot construction would be completed in late 2021, according to the application.

Code Officer Adam Ackor said he was requiring the matter to go before the Planning Board even before the new ordinance was proposed. Ackor said that is because the demolition of a building and the conversion into a parking lot was a change of use which does require Planning Board review.

He said the project raises substantive issues that warrant city review.

The 15,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1953. The building was constructed several months after one of Rockland's worst fires destroyed several blocks Dec. 12, 1952.

Tenants mentioned that the building needs a lot of repairs.

279 Main St., LLC has owned the property since 2017. Before that, the late Frank Ferraiolo owned the property since 1995. Before 1995, the building was a Sears store.

Rockland filed a tax lien against 279, LLC on Monday for about $34,000 in unpaid taxes.

Darling was also president of the Waterfront Group which sold, in July, the property that includes the former Black Pearl restaurant. She attempted to get approval in May 2019 for a restaurant on the property, but the Planning Board rejected it, in part, because the new structure would have been located on a section that has been used as a road for more than 50 years.

If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at knox.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at knox.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (5)
Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Oct 08, 2020 09:12

I think the spot would be a great one for a year-round circus. That way Rockland could have two of them.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Oct 08, 2020 06:48

Why more laws?  If a building is demolished for a parking lot, it has to go before the Planning Board anyway.  More restrictions, more laws for tax payers to follow that the city government has control of.



Posted by: Jeannie L. Wood | Oct 08, 2020 06:03

I agree with you SM & the fact that the city can do what ever they feel like on main st. ( the barricades etc. ) that is a total cluster & hurting the business's. I avoid downtown like I avoid covid & I'm sure alot more other people do to. Not sure why a parking lot would not be a good idea as there isn't many parking spots left on main st. I hope Miss Darling charges people to park there, she is most likely still upset over the jerk around she got from the issues down over the hill. S. Wood



Posted by: Deborah Clarisse Morrison | Oct 07, 2020 15:19

I seem to remember the city just having to have the old Snappy's Pizza building on Park Street....Flattened it, and there the lot sits - at least 10 years latter...of course I might be wrong, that was a long time ago.  I'm sure the council wouldn't want to tell you what to do with your property unless they did the same.  Do as I say, not as I do (remember a few years ago when they removed the aging school on Broadway?  Why didn't everyone have a problem with that?  Would you like me to go on...?  Sm



Posted by: George Terrien | Oct 07, 2020 12:37

I do hope that whatever conditions the Planning Board might impose (landscaping, screening, even turnoffs and exits, walkways, etc.) will be enforced before a certificate of occupancy might be issued.  I can remember instances in the past where such requirements were allowed to be "postponed" for one reason or another, none that seemed valid to me, and which have not yet, years later, been required.  Site improvements required a decade ago for renovations to the Navigator, for example, would have greatly enhanced its appearance and impact on nearby uses a decade ago had the Planning Board conditions been fulfilled.  Even if the improvements might be considered by the new owner to be temporary before the property might be redeveloped should not be permitted to any lower standard than what would be required for a permanent parking lot.  AND, if possible for the development of a parking lot (or for any other use), the demolition of the existing building should not be allowed until the plans for redevelopment have been thoroughly reviewed and approved.  Finally, before demolition might be permitted, the owner should be required to post a completion bond to assure that the site not end up unimproved, empty, dusty, and an insult to the gateway to Main Street in Downtown Rockland.



If you wish to comment, please login.