Opposition to Rockland business park grows

By Stephen Betts | Dec 06, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Residents of Prospect Street, Holmes, Pleasant, Pleasant Street Extension, and Highland Street Extension have voiced concerns and opposition to a proposed business park off Pleasant Street.

Rockland — A growing chorus of neighbors is coming out against a proposal by the City Council to rezone about 20 acres off Pleasant Street that could become a business park.

The residents spoke out against the proposal Wednesday night, Dec. 5, during the City Council's agenda-setting meeting.

City officials said they had heard the concerns of neighbors and would make some changes to the plan. Details of those changes have not yet been unveiled.

The council gave the original zoning change preliminary approval in October.

There are five contiguous privately-owned parcels on the south side of Pleasant Street that are currently a mix of Residential B and Transitional B 2 zones, which would become a business park zone under the proposed change.

The largest of the five parcels is nearly 12 acres owned by MaineHealth, where the home health office building sits. Another two are residential lots owned by Everett Mank. The Rockland Little League ballfield is another of the lots. Even if the zone is finalized, a ballfield will be an allowed use in the business park, meaning that the Little League can remain there, but if the association wants to move, the land could be developed for business use.

Peter Digirolamo of Holmes Street spoke against the proposal at the Dec. 5 meeting.

"You're making this sound like a soft change, but it is not. This needs to be nipped in the bud," Digirolamo said. "Instead of dollars and cents, use common sense."

He said this would negatively affect many residents.

Sarah Gott of Highland Street Extension said the stretch of Pleasant Street where these properties are located is already unsafe. She said she has three children and there are other children and dogs who live on the street. She said nearly every day a car goes off the road on this stretch Pleasant Street

She said she also would be concerned about light pollution from industries moving into the largely undeveloped land.

James Coombs of Holmes Street said the neighborhood is a beautiful residential area and he opposes the zone change. "This is creeping eminent domain," Coombs said.

Nancy Comeau of Pleasant Street Extension reiterated her opposition to the change. Among her concerns was safety from large vehicles using the narrow road, which has a sharp curve.

Thomas Whiting of Prospect Street also reiterated his opposition.

City officials attempted to allay some of the residents' concerns.

Community Development Director Julie Hashem said the city has contacted the Maine Department of Transportation and a representative of the agency will view the intersection of Pleasant Street and Broadway. She said the city will seek state approval to paint a crosswalk at the intersection.

The city's Public Services Department will also see if a bicycle/pedestrian lane can be created, but acknowledged that the section of Pleasant Street from the proposed business park to Broadway may not be wide enough.

Hashem said the city's ordinances already prohibit annoying and detrimental activities and pointed out that if any business applies to build on the properties, it would be reviewed by the Planning Board. The city has noise and light standards that any development would have to comply with, the community development director said.

Councilor Ed Glaser said the issue still boils down to the width of Pleasant Street and the curve that creates safety concerns.

Councilor Valli Geiger said she supported the idea of a business park, but also had concerns about the safety of the road. She said the city should talk with the property owners who would benefit from the business park creation to see if they would give some land to allow for a wider street and sidewalks.

The changes to the wording of the ordinance are expected to be available later this week.

Neighbors have also voiced concerns about the type of activities that can operate in a business park zone, including bulk fuel storage.

The city's Comprehensive Planning Commission voted unanimously that the proposed changes in zoning were in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan. The plan projects that the area south of Pleasant Street and west of Broadway will likely evolve into an industrial area.

The Rockland Economic Development Advisory Committee also gave its support in a memo. "Please know that REDAC discussed at length the proposed ordinances with city staff, Rockland Main Street Inc, and the Pen Bay Chamber of Commerce, and agrees that these ordinance changes will help the development of Pleasant Street, the economic vitally of Rockland with the prospect of additional small business space, and help increase property values in the area," the memo stated.

The proposed business park zone would allow activities including bulk storage of petroleum or grain; restaurants; research and development facilities; construction services; distribution businesses; retail trade and professional office buildings.

City Manager Tom Luttrell has said that while the city would not be creating a business park, the changes would allow a private developer to come in and create one.

City officials have pointed out that there is a shortage of developable land in the city for commercial and light industrial uses.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Dec 07, 2018 10:59

Per Geiger, why in the world would private property owners "give some of their land to the town"? (Maybe the town should give private property owners some tax relief.) Here's another example of the cart before the horse. The city should get road safety assessments from DOT before plowing ahead with this project.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Dec 07, 2018 08:51

If developed properly a business park could be constructed in such a way as to eliminate any noise or light  pollution to neighbors.  Also curious as to why no one has suggested a different location of the entrance and exit to the park.  Perhaps down by Ferriallo' construction (already a commercial site).  Of course no one either is talking about the land originally proposed as a business park in the field behind city hall, on the property that lies between pleasant and thomaston streets.  A right of way was created years ago for an entrance directly across from the western most entrance to the industrial park.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Dec 06, 2018 13:03

The councilors do not think that far out of town. Wouldn't be surprised if some didn't know about that property.

Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Dec 06, 2018 12:16

Could not Rockland build a business park with an entrance off Rt. 90 without encroaching on the bog? There is easy access to Rts 90, 17 and 1, all of which have had a lot of development on the last 30 years.

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