Letter from neighbors on hotel at 250 Main

May 19, 2014

As Rockland Residents and business owners (we have chosen to make Rockland our home), we are attracted to the many offerings that Rockland has. We love that we are able to live in healthy residential neighborhoods and still be in walking distance to a vibrant Main Street. We are the heart and soul of this town, and while we happily welcome and encourage new and successful business to downtown Main Street, we need to speak up when a proposed development will threaten the character of our neighborhoods and our sense of home.

You have received one letter from the developer regarding this hotel. We hope you will allow us a moment to clarify some of the points made in his letter.

We respect Lyman as a well-established and talented boat builder. However, the proposed condos were a failed project. One that our neighborhood has been left with for over four years. Though they are now proposing a new project of the same height — it has grown in mass by 30 percent. It is a new use, no longer residential. And we feel strongly that this time around, with the new architectural renderings that Lyman has submitted (please view them at the end of this document), they make very clear that this project is not only wildly out of scale with our residential neighborhood, it is also not in keeping with the our downtown Main Street’s designation as historic.

Height: The proposed building would be the tallest in Rockland. Though it may technically meet the maximum height allowance, it also needs to meet the other standards and intent of the Downtown zone: this includes being “compact” and “historic” in character, as well as being “compatible with existing scale.” We feel that the scale of this building is in no way compatible with the abutting one and two-story homes.

Parking: The hotel is not required to have parking per code. But the applicant has made it clear that they will not build a hotel without parking. This makes obvious sense to us — with no overnight winter parking allowed — where would guests leave their cars? What doesn’t make sense to us — and seems to not have been well-thought through by the applicant — is what is going to happen when half or more of their guests show up at once to check-in. Anyone with experience in the hospitality industry knows that this will be a regular, weekly occurrence in the summertime. Lyman will be requesting a pick-up/drop-off area be designated in front of their hotel — on our public street. The space allowed will only be enough room for two, maybe three cars. What is going to happen when six cars show up at once? Ten? In a typical urban hotel, a valet parking plan like this would make use of the hotel’s property — a curb cut and pull through into the hotel itself. But because of the small lot size and maximum footprint of this hotel, the valet parking will be forced out into our already narrow street.

Traffic: Because the hotel is going to be located at the corner of what is already a difficult intersection for drivers, we are requesting that a traffic impact study be done. We feel it would be irresponsible of the city not to ask how the new, larger footprint of this building will impact driver visibility. Our biggest concern is the location of the valet pick-up/drop-off area. With 2 to potentially 26 cars pulling up at that corner there will unquestionably be double-parking occurring, tourists emptying out on to the street with luggage, it will only be a matter of time until there is an accident.

Design of the hotel: We feel that the images below speak for themselves. We are challenged to find anyone who looks at these and agrees that this will be a positive visual addition to Rockland’s skyline. We are also challenged to find anyone who feels that this is remotely “compatible with existing scale” per the Downtown code.

For the same reasons many of us have chosen to make Rockland our home, our town has now become attractive to developers. While we would celebrate and support a hotel of this size being built in the Tilson Overlay Zone, we are saddened to see out-of-scale new construction being proposed in our residential neighborhoods. Not only is this short-sighted, it is not legal per our Comprehensive Plan. We want to promote & support business, but not at the expense of our downtown, full-time residents. We hope you will join us in voicing our concerns about the height & design of this building at the May 20th Public Hearing, at 5:15pm.

Sincerely, Rockland Concerned Residents www.facebook.com/weloveourtown

Is this a building that you could be happy with being built next door to your home?

Joan Wright

Debby Atwell

Amy Files


Comments (6)
Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | May 23, 2014 18:31

The person with the most legitimate complaint is Susan Ward. When people complained about the coffee roasting chimney, Patrick and Susan added more height to it. That probably was very costly and will no doubt be affected by the hotel height.

Posted by: Sandra Schramm | May 22, 2014 22:12

The proposed hotel at 250 Main St in Rockland has re-created its footprint, height and other design issues several times. A local resident, attorney and former Planning Board member from Readfield ME pointed out that once the residents around the area ask for tax abatements the true impact will be known.  The absurd height is intended under the Comprehensive Planning board to conform to the existing abutting neighbors. It does not! The height has been changed as well as the footprint since being submitted the second time for consideration. The drawings they put forth of the area distorts the street width and angle and distorts the abutting buildings size.  While they may not require parking under our code they admit they need parking. They are asking for the rare space on Main St. and had asked for 4 spaces on Pleasant St. which is not permissible parking spaces.  The area has 7 roadways of traffic entering and leaving in a very tight amount of road footage. Main St.,  north and south, Pleasant St., Myrtle St., Robinson St., Water St. and Harbor Park. This is a narrow portion of Rte. 73 even with parking spaces having been removed years back. Boston Financial according to the building owner hopes to add another 150 jobs making even more traffic.  Add to that the pedestrians who live and love to walk the SoRO district and then 2 major festivals and Maine Boats and Harbors Show. The street is flooded with pedestrians crossing hit or miss as they can. Now add valet parking and double parking in the one requested space which cannot be designated to the hotel. Then you have local businesses also requiring the few parking spaces available.  We are not arguing the hotel concept. We like the idea but it is too tall for that corner, sets a bad precedent in local planning and zoning and has no area whatsoever to accommodate guest arrival, unloading or loading their cars, deliveries or meeting guests using their meeting room to park. Yes, they will have employee parking further up Pleasant St and guest parking off Park St. by Eastern Tire but many of you know you would not want your car or possessions left in an unattended parking lot accessible to the transients who attend the events and live along that area of the track in summer.  Fact folks, there has even been furniture moved under the big tree by Midcoast Mental Health during the summer months. There are other locations along the area where transients camp during the summer. Many are drug addicts as needles are routinely found along the side of the track area. I can watch the activity from my home. Many folks want their car close by as they never take all their items into the hotel for one night. They run back to the car for items as needed.  On Pleasant St. Trackside has parking overflow on the streets fairly regularly.  Do we want the same issues that Talbot and Granite Streets experience due to the Ferry Terminal passengers, permits for guests and family parking in front of our homes?  I suggest not. Those opposed to our concerns might also be considered NIMBYS.

Please understand, the first plan 4 years ago met with no opposition. It was more appropriate in size and use. The foot plan has now been extended so that a slab is being added to use almost every available sq. ft. of property. This tall building will have problems with the coffee roasting fumes and it will have complaints from guests. This is a long established business with 25 employees. Should she have to move because the guests will smell roasting coffee beans?

The City of Rockland needs to handle the Traffic and Safety Impact Study and have Mr. Lyman pay for it. The Planning Board asked him to have this done himself. The study needs to be done in part during our first summer event, The North Atlantic Blues Festival due to the worst possible conditions.

We are not unreasonable neighbors or residents but we are concerned about our way of life, the compatibility of the project to our neighborhood and south end district and ask that reasonable consideration be given to the Ordinances of Rockland. Lower the building and please do not come back for a hardship change of use in two years because you chose a location not conducive to the nature of your current intentions.

Posted by: James York | May 19, 2014 20:53

AF: I see things quite differently here: Of the 18 houses sold in your neighborhood how many were new builds?   Many of the longstanding working class families young and old of the southend have been forced from their homes once their tax bill eclipsed all others, heat, water, etc. Many families who have given our community the grit or 'salt' that is celebrated by new-comers are leaving town because 1) taxes 2) schools/budgets in disarray.  I have yet to hear of people selling their houses in Rockland because of new developments encroaching on residential neighborhoods.  This hotel would be located closer to 3 pubs a market, a coffee roaster, etc.. its not smack dap in the heart of residential pleasant St area.  Again, I commend your organizing but its my opinion that our city would be better with this building.

Posted by: Amy Files | May 19, 2014 18:37

Hi James -- We would argue that this building doesn't meet the Downtown Zone's stipulation that it be "compatible with existing scale" considering that a 72 ft high, 6 story building will literally abut 1 and 2 story family homes. There may be some shifts in height in the downtown -- but that scale difference is unprecedented. It is also a legal requirement, per the Comprehensive Plan, that Rockland protect and preserve the Pleasant St neighborhood as residential and protect it from encroaching commercial interests. We've already lost one home in our neighborhood directly connected to this development, a proposal has been made to re-zone residential to commercial -- specifically for this development -- and due to their parking needs we will lose much beloved green space behind our homes -- to be replaced by pavement and 24-hour noise or car doors and engines.

Full-time residents who live downtown also supply a significant amount of income due to our year-round investment in our income into local businesses -- the 150 or so homes in our neighborhood each provide 2 to 3 thousand dollars each in property taxes and each full-time year round household another estimated 10 thousand dollars each spent in services and sales as well as provide for about .2 jobs (per household!) and those jobs in turn provide another $30,000 or so each in income. If you add this all up it is over 1 million dollars created by residents in the Pleasant St neighborhood alone.

When we talk about economics we should understand the value of year-round residents and how important they are to keeping a vibrant and year-round Main Street.

The Pleasant Street neighborhood alone sold over 18 homes in 2013 -- many to new couples who are also entrepreneurs and bringing their business here. They are attracted to both the walkability and residential quality of the neighborhood. If you live downtown -- and travel mostly on foot -- you then understand how important keeping a sense of pedestrian scale is to a neighborhood's ability to attract folks who value walkability.

We would all applaud and welcome a proposal that is more in scale and in keeping with the character of our neighborhood but this proposal is a slap in the face to most of the folks who live in the Pleasant St neighborhood and have chosen to make their homes here. Unfortunately, even when interpretation of code may be on our side -- when it comes to developers and their deep pockets-- people like yourself look quickly to the tax bill, newspaper and city officials heavily favor the developers voice, and the burden of pointing out how and why this development does not meet code requirements is placed on residents.


Posted by: Susan P Reitman | May 19, 2014 15:23

Has anyone talked to an attorney to see if there is any way legally to stop this hotel from being built?  Civil disobedience may be an answer for those opposed to the hotel [picket lines, etc.]  The old saying "The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Oil."  Have you thought about contacting the media TV, etc in Portland, Bangor, Augusta and national media to ask them to do a story about your plight.  Granted the City of Rockland has the upper hand if the zoning,etc allows this hotel to be built but there is a BIGGER STORY HERE AND THAT IS RESPECT FOR THE RESIDENTS LIVING NEAR THIS HOTEL WHO DO NOT WANT TO LIVE NEAR THIS HOTEL.  The sad thing is I BELIEVE in a couple of years the City will see the error of their ways for allowing this hotel to be built; I think once a person stays for the first time in this hotel they will not want to stay in it a second time unless it only cost $1.00 a day to stay there.  If all the people in Rockland who do not want this hotel to be built can do things to raise such a stink the developer my throw up his hands and decide it is not worth it and get the heck out of dodge.  I am 72 years old and grew up in the civil disobedience era where you had to fight for your rights and what you believe in.  Also remember there is another hotel proposed overlooking Rockland Harbor AND THAT IS THE ONE THAT SHOULD BE BUILT.

Posted by: James York | May 19, 2014 14:34

While I commend the organizing efforts around this- the letter essentially sounds like the all too familiar not in my backyard argument.  Downtown is spotted with large building abutting smaller ones.  The Navigator, Rankin Block, the Court House (which according to local historian and former mayor would remain the city tallest building) all have residential areas surrounding them.  This is a proposed Main St building. If you are going to live next to downtown zone and enjoy the walkability (the good)  then I think you have to accept development that is allowed in the zone (the bad).  This building, like or not, will bring in substantial tax revenue (some $30,000) to the city.  I wonder if this was a non-profit there would be such a fuss; the CMCA was allowed to move forward with a modern look, and I think this building, so long as it meets zoning ordinances should be allowed to move forward to as well.

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