Parking concerns delay hotel decision

By Gabriel Blodgett | Nov 22, 2019
Source: Town of Rockport Concerns over parking led the Planning Board to issue a continuance on the application for the proposed downtown Rockport hotel.

Rockport — Concerns over a lack of parking led the Planning Board to hold off on a decision on the proposed 35-room hotel in downtown Rockport.

At the Nov. 21 meeting, the board considered the application submitted by Gartley & Dorsky on behalf of 20 Central St. LLC, the company operated by Stuart Smith, Marianne Smith, and Tyler Smith.

While much of the application proceeded without contention, the issue of parking was raised by several residents in attendance and in the end merited more research from the applicants. The board voted to continue the discussions contingent on parking solutions at a later date.

According to the formula in the Rockport Land Use Ordinance, the proposed hotel, which would include a top-floor restaurant and bar as well as a first floor breakfast restaurant, would require 65 spaces, although that number could be lowered because the peak hours for the two restaurants would not coincide.

In order to meet these requirements, the applicants proposed transferring the 49-space parking lot behind the buildings, known as Sandy’s Way, from the 18 Central St. Shepherd Block property to the 20 Central St. parcel. Both properties are owned by the Smith family.

However, Planning Board Chair Joe Sternowski said that after reviewing the applications for the Shepherd Block and Union Hall, submitted in 2008 and 2012 respectively, their approvals hinged on the existence and use of parking on Sandy’s Way. He noted that in 2012, with regard to the Union Hall renovation, Leucadia National Corporation, which owned the properties at the time, agreed to add 25 spaces to the lot behind Mari Lea Park for the purpose of serving the restaurant, apartments, and offices in the building.

“I hope there is a solution here,” said Sternowski, but “we can’t ignore what came before us.”

He suggested that the applicants take a look at all of the development in the current buildings and the proposed hotel and determine what the Land Use Ordinance requirements are for parking.

Tyler Smith pointed out that many of the guests at the hotel would also be using the restaurants, which would reduce the need for parking and asked the board for additional guidance on the issue of “stacking” - when the peak hours differ for the various uses of the buildings.

The Land Use Ordinance includes a subsection which states, “where available parking is below the strict requirements for uses set forth in this Ordinance, shared parking facilities shall be allowed when the functional nature of the uses allow for differing peak hour demands.”

Sternowski asked that the applicants include notes about varying peak hours in their research on the parking issue.

Several residents of Rockport attended the meeting to voice their concerns about the project, mainly focusing on the parking issues and congestion that would result if the project were approved.

John Priestley raised concerns over the previous board rulings on parking for the existing buildings, while Lisa Breheny noted the difficulty of finding parking in the village and how often she uses the lot behind the buildings.

Betsy Elman said that having 35 people, unfamiliar with the area, driving around looking for parking would both increase traffic and have a negative impact on foot and bicycle traffic.

“The character of downtown for walking would be massively affected,” said Elman.

She added that in the process of approving parking for the library, the Select Board chose to limit the number of spaces close to the building and justified the decision by noting all the different parking options in the downtown area, including the Sandy’s Way lot. In those discussions they imagined that library employees would likely park in that lot. If that option were removed it would have a ripple effect on the rest of the village.

“It’s not the responsibility of this board to figure out the parking issue,” said Sternowski but added, “this is a larger problem and we need to work together to figure out a reasonable solution.”

Vice Chair John Viehman asked about the possibility of people parking past Rockport Marine in the lot on the edge of Goose River that is largely used for boat storage in the winter.

Town Planner Bill Najpauer said the town is tentatively pursuing preliminary engineering for additional parking but “that’s not something that’s going to occur very quickly.”

Several members of the public also voiced their concerns over the appearance and size of the hotel. Michael Hampton said that having balconies on the front side of the building “doesn’t seem keeping with the vernacular of Rockport.”

Breheny also questioned the need for balconies, preferring to “keep the small town look.”

Tyler Smith said that unlike the 16 Bayview Hotel, the wrought iron balconies on the Rockport hotel would not project over the sidewalk.

The Land Use Ordinance calls for buildings to fit in with the surrounding neighborhood but Sternowski noted that does not mean that they have to be exactly the same.

After discussion, the board determined that the appearance of the building was acceptable.

Several supporters of the project were also in attendance including Taylor Allen, who owns Rockport Marine and Cornelius Russell, the General Manager at the Samoset.

In addition to the parking, during the application there were minor additional questions raised over stormwater drainage, hydrant capacity and the need for a sewer pump test. In the end, the board voted for a continuance to address the issues at a future meeting. The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 19.

 

Comments (2)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Nov 27, 2019 13:03

The height of the building is so Not in touch with the community architecture. Are there not zoning enforced?  There surely is open space outside of the town limits, I think?  Perhaps the zoning board could jump in on this thought?



Posted by: Ananur Forma | Nov 22, 2019 13:56

I don't even attempt to go anymore to events in Rockport at the Opera House, even though I want to. No parking. Have gotten there early thinking I'd get a space. Nope. had to drive back home. It is a problem and has been a problem for a long time now, my opinion.



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