Landowner says she could build restaurant in middle of 'road'

Rockland agrees it does not own road to Harbor Park

By Stephen Betts | Feb 06, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts A private landowner owns a stretch of land that crosses this road to Harbor Park.

Rockland — A potential commercial development could be built in the middle of one of the two roads that lead to Rockland's Harbor Park.

That is because Rockland does not own the passageway that leads from Park Drive to the bustling waterfront park that hosts annual summer festivals and is frequented by visitors and locals alike who view the harbor.

That stunning announcement was made Tuesday night, Feb. 5, at the Rockland Planning Board meeting for the review of a proposal to demolish the former Conte's restaurant and replace it with a new building.

Crystal Darling, who, along with John Conte, makes up the company Waterfront Group, owns land that crosses what has been used as a city road for at least 50 years. The Waterfront Group owns the land that includes the Pearl Restaurant and the former Conte's restaurant.

City Manager Tom Luttrell, who attended the Feb. 5 meeting, said he learned of the land ownership issue within the past month.

Darling has proposed demolishing the former Conte's restaurant building and wants city approval to build a new 2,000-square-foot commercial building on the property. The current site of the building, however, is restricted because of floodplain regulations.

The property owner said she could build the structure in the middle of what is now being used as a road.

Code Officer John Root agreed she could build there. Root urged the city and Darling to meet to try to work out an agreement that allows her to build on the property and also keeps that road open to the public.

The Planning Board voted unanimously to postpone the review of the proposal to build on the property to allow the city administration time to talk with Darling.

Darling said the Waterfront Group property is up for sale, but that it would be more marketable if her proposal for a new commercial building is approved.

Waterfront Group's property stretches across the road and extends to the grassy area behind the 1 Park Drive property, where the city Police Department parking lot is located.

John Conte, who operated the legendary Conte's restaurant there from 1991 to 2010, was at the meeting but did not speak to the board.

The Dry Dock restaurant operated there during the 1980s.

Adding to the complexity of the situation is the fact that sewer lines run under the property.

The city has notified the Waterfront Group that the former Conte's building is in disrepair and must be repaired or demolished. No formal order to remove has been issued, however.

The city could take the portion of the property, that runs across what is used as a road through eminent domain, but that would be a lengthy legal process and the city would be required to compensate the Waterfront Group.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Amy Files | Feb 07, 2019 11:41

Eminent Domain is an important tool for Maine cities on the coast -- particularly a City like Rockland who has, it seems, various properties where we haven't taken care of permanently securing public access in space that is and has been used by the public for years...


Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Feb 06, 2019 13:35

I think the right of way has been established by adverse possession (see 14 MRSA §812).

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Feb 06, 2019 10:09

George, I asked that question of the city officials Tuesday and their response was the city may not have that right.

Posted by: George Terrien | Feb 06, 2019 09:28

Steve Betts, why don't you write an article about prescriptive rights in Maine, and its application to public passage at this location?

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Feb 06, 2019 08:20


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