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Rockland may hold November vote on whether to ban large cruise ships

By Stephen Betts | May 07, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Holly Young, right, holds one end of pages of petition from people calling for a moratorium on large cruise ships in Rockland. The petition was presented Monday evening, May 7, to the Rockland City Council.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council may schedule a November advisory referendum on whether to impose a ban on large cruise ships.

Councilors voiced support for such a referendum to gauge public sentiment after a Monday evening, May 7, meeting in which a group of residents presented a petition calling for regulations on large cruise ships. A dozen speakers called for a moratorium, saying the ban was needed to protect the character of the community.

The group unfurled pages of the petition across the City Council chamber to demonstrate the number of people who signed the online survey asking the city to enact regulations on larger cruise ships. David Wylie of Rockland said 80 Rockland residents signed the petition and there were 752 total signatures from people around the country and world.

The cruise ship issue was not on the council's agenda but residents turned out, asking councilors to impose an immediate moratorium.

Amy Files of Rockland asked the City Council to direct the staff to stop any further negotiations with large cruise ships for visits in subsequent years until the impact of these visits is assessed.

Tom O'Donovan of Harbor Square Gallery said there is so much to feel good about in Rockland since he bought his building and opened his business in 1995. Mega-cruise ships provide no benefit and will have an adverse impact on the community, O'Donovan said.

He said the mega-cruise ships result in a race to the bottom for businesses such as trivial gift shops. He said in places he has been at around the world, mega-cruise ships are a disaster for communities.

Rosemary Willson of Rockland said the sheer size of the mega-cruise ships is out of proportion to the natural beauty of Rockland. These ships damage the environment, she claimed, by spewing exhausts and dumping wastes in the ocean.

Beth Fowlie, owner of 410 Main St., said the larger cruise ships have a huge effect on the culture of the community.

Sara Wylie of Rockland said a moratorium on cruise ships of more than 250 passengers was needed because otherwise there could be a negative effect on the character of the authentic, small-town harbor community of Rockland.

Former Mayor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said a moratorium should not be confused with a ban on cruise ships. She said the smaller, boutique cruise ships are a perfect fit for Rockland. MacLellan-Ruf said there have been discussions about needing regulations on cruise ships for 11 years, but the council has not held a community-wide discussion on imposing regulations.

She said the council's recent decision to call for a new harbor management plan is needed, but would delay action on regulating cruise ships for another two years.

The city's waterfront facilities are not able to handle the large crowds from the mega-cruise ships, she said.

One person who spoke out for all cruise ships was Lynn Archer of the Brass Compass cafe. She said she felt like a salmon swimming against the current.

Rockland is poised for an economic boom that can be fueled by all sources of tourism, including the larger cruise ships, Archer said.

The Harbor Management Commission has expressed opposition to larger cruise ships for more than a decade while business groups have voiced support for the visits which bring in large number of visitors on the days the vessels are in port.

There are agreements for nine large cruise ship visits in 2018 and two in 2019.

At the end of Monday evening's meeting, Councilor Ed Glaser suggested the advisory referendum, so that the city would know the sentiment of the public, pointing out that the council should not just act on requests from an organized effort for a turnout at a meeting.

He pointed out that many of the signatures on the petition were not from Rockland residents.

Mayor Valli Geiger said the city could have a series of meetings leading up to the November vote.

In other action, Geiger said she would like to schedule a meeting for residents to comment on the proposed Yachting Solutions Inc. marina expansion plan.

Rockland resident Christos Calivas asked for such a meeting at the start of Monday's council session, pointing out that residents did not get the opportunity to speak at a Feb. 14 meeting attended by 100 people.

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Comments (6)
Posted by: judith wenzel andersen | May 09, 2018 14:04

I understand Dale, We both want the best for the area and for our children and grandchildren who live here, and we both worry about the future.    Dr Judy



Posted by: Ed Allen | May 08, 2018 19:00

BANG !!!! Rockland you can't have to many feet left to shoot off



Posted by: judith wenzel andersen | May 08, 2018 09:52

What seems to be lost in many of these responses is the Impact that Megaships will have on the entire county, not just Rockland. Many of us who signed the petition, who live in Knox County, support local businesses all year  round and volunteer in Rockland. The city  has the power and the responsibility to make an important decision which will affect all of us, not just Rockland and the future will be grim if the city succumbs to the false hope that these ships will improve the general well being and economy of the area. Just talk to year- round residents of Bar Harbor or Ketchikan, Alaska, and you might have a shock; Or take a summer stroll in Bar Harbor when two megaships are there.

Please do not dismiss the people who are opposed as "tree huggers," "artists," or "money people."   We are a diverse group of people who care deeply about Maine and its future, some of us have spent much of our life here working for the common good. We deserve to be heard.

Judith Andersen, M.D.



Posted by: Jeff Sukeforth | May 08, 2018 08:44

And all things old are new again. It wasn't long ago that Rockland folks were whining about lack of tourism dollars, had to fix up the downtown to get folks back to spend those dollars and cruise ships what a great idea it was. Get those floating money stacks in and Rockland would have a captive audience for dollars.  Now a petition that floats around the room, but wait only 80 people from Rockland signed it, but so many from other locales. It would seem 80 people is a minor figure considering there are many more taxpayers on the rolls.  I honestly cannot understand the comment that the size of the ship is directly correlated to the culture of the city.  Folks you can't have it both ways, whether you want the tourists and their dollars which come ashore from these ships or you don't care if that revenue is lost.



Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | May 08, 2018 06:58

All this while the Master Plan for the Tillson Avenue area continues to sit on a shelf in the City Manager's office - SEVEN years since it was drafted by the Comprehensive Planning Commission. When will the City Council begin to implement it?

It's a great plan - check it out:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B8pbdW1TPwg0eDR1bWRYZ3JhU28/view?rm=minimal



Posted by: Lynne A Barnard | May 07, 2018 21:08

It should also be noted that not one single representative from the Cruise Industry or the Chamber of Commerce seemed to be in attendance at this evening's City Council meeting even though there has been plenty of advance notice that this Petition was going to be presented at this official and very public meeting in the CC Chambers on this particular date.  Amy Files made a really good suggestion -- just stop making contracts/reservations with the Cruise Lines that are floating these behemoths.



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