Developer eyes mixed-use project in Tillson Avenue area

By Stephen Betts | Sep 07, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Rockland City Council will consider giving final approval to a zone change to allow mixed residential and commercial development in the Tillson Avenue area.

Rockland — A developer is considering creating a mixed residential/commercial project in the Tillson Avenue area.

That announcement was made at the Sept. 4 meeting of the Rockland City Council.

City Manager Tom Luttrell said he had few details, 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 April 8 to a zone change that would allow residences on upper floors of buildings in the waterfront zone of Tillson Avenue.

Final approval was put off, however, after a proposed 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 major mixed-use development that would have included retail shops, offices and residences.

DuPont had opposed that project, however.

Then DuPont Plant Manager Jeff Hamilton was at the City Council's May 6 meeting and reiterated the company's opposition to the proposed zone change. His concerns included pedestrian safety in an industrial area.

The council agreed Sept. 4 to hold a meeting Oct. 2 to discuss the zone change, which has been in limbo during the past four months.

Councilor Valli Geiger said the council should act, since there is a potential buyer who may not be here in six months.

Geiger had asked after the Dupont purchase 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.

Dupont said it had no plans for the property.

Comments (10)
Posted by: THOMAS MARSHALL, JR | Sep 09, 2019 13:21

The Waterfront Plan would have a much greater chance of success if it included the two great powerhouses of Rockland’s economic development. Both Dupont and the O’Hara Corporation have been excluded from participating in the plan with lines on a map.  The plan will need millions of capital investment to produce anything. Instead of depending on outsiders who rarely show up, we need to count on those who already have a big stake in our future.  Pretty streetscapes are nice, but a fat bundle of fiber optic cables and 5G antenna to create waterfront server farms and tidal power generation would bring serious coin to the City.

Posted by: George Terrien | Sep 09, 2019 09:59

I hope you act on Gerald's observations from Sunday evening, Valli.  I agree with them completely, as I would have thought, you would have, too.

Over the years, Rockland has suffered from enough inaction as it is, without need for inventing reasons to delay further, especially on this waterfront initiative that should have been enacted years ago.

Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Sep 08, 2019 19:05

I'm sorry Valli but adopting the Waterfront Redevelopment Master Plan is just the first step - implementation comes next. Without adopting it , any potential developer will make plans based on what is in front of them. Having the Plan legally in place tells developers what the people of Rockland envision in the area - developers will work with the City and other land owners to make it happen.

Unfortunately, we no longer have a City Attorney that advocates for her client. But ask her - can the City adopt the Plan without immediately making any necessary land swaps or purchases? Ask. Then go ask Terry Pinto for his opinion - he was a developer in a former life.

I am so tired of years of Council members sitting on their ass not getting this done.

Posted by: Valli Genevieve Geiger | Sep 08, 2019 16:38

We continue to delay the Waterfront Master Plan because we do not know how to make that happen. It is a wonderful plan, but it involves taking people's private property to create new streets which increase water views. There was some belief that we could do that by trading some of the fish pier land in exchange, but the fish pier only belongs to the city while we keep its intended use. We do not have the legal right to give it or sell it to other property owners. If this were easy it would be done. What it did do, was allow people to imagine Tillson Avenue differently. The Waterfront plan imagined the Tillson area to be a combination of different uses, commercial, residential and retail. City Council needs to adjust current zoning to allow residential on upper floors in the Tillson Avenue area if that vision is one the Council and the city wants to see.

As far as Dupont, their decision to buy a property they do not want and have no intention of using, to block development was a heartbreaking development for a city that needs more commercial development to take the pressure off residential property tax payers. Dupont is a multinational corporation currently managed by a CEO who is spinning off pieces of the company in an apparent desire to drive up shareholder prices. We cannot count on Dupont continuing to run FMC or be a good neighbor to us.

Valli Geiger

Rockland City Council

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Sep 07, 2019 13:55

City council ignores our Comprehensive Plan, so hardly surprising they're also ignoring the Waterfront Master Plan.

Posted by: Jean Fowles | Sep 07, 2019 13:32

Maybe Valli Geiger should lose her home to eminent DOMAIN ,  Deplorable Of KNOX COUNTY



Posted by: Jean Fowles | Sep 07, 2019 13:31

Maybe Valli Geiger should lose her home to eminent DOMAIN ,  Deplorable Of KNOX COUNTY


Posted by: George Terrien | Sep 07, 2019 10:27

Supporting Gerald's recommendation, I wonder why the City continues to delay adoption of the Waterfront Master Plan, as well as to ignore his repeated suggestions.  A lot of good work was put into that plan, and its direction will almost certainly be important for the City's future, as well as likely helpful for the developer.

If the City wants to continue to pride itself (as I have often heard Councilors assert) on the broad involvement of its citizens, it MUST address the earnest and thoughtful recommendations of the many committees and individual efforts that have been submitted over the years.  Right now, on this likely proposal along Tilson Avenue, PLEASE, take this opportunity to pick up on the lapsed attention to the Waterfront Master Plan, and fully engage the Comprehensive Planning Commission in preparing the foundation for this proposal.

Doing right by and for this neighborhood is critically important for our future.

Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Sep 07, 2019 07:14

While I in general support redevelopment in the area, nothing should be done until the Council adopts the Waterfront Master Plan. It was a coincidence that the Landsburg proposal for the most part conformed to the Plan’s new street layouts; this will not be likely with any new scheme.


Readers can find the Plan here, where it has sat for over eight years:

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Sep 07, 2019 05:39

First let's find out if this developer has a "purchase & sale agreement".  Let's not drop the ball at the one yard line.

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