Rockland officials disappointed in tech school response on public access

By Stephen Betts | Aug 30, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts From left, Region 8 Business Manager Sherry Moody, Region 8 Board Chair Jerry White and Midcoast School of Technology Executive Director Elizabeth Fisher at the Aug. 28 Region 8 meeting.

Rockland — Rockland officials who attended a Wednesday night, Aug. 28, meeting of the Region 8 Vocational School Board came away disappointed with the response on the issue of allowing public access along the waterfront in back of the new school building.

"It was just a wasted evening," Rockland Planning Board Chair Erik Laustsen said after the meeting. Planning Board member Carol Maines said she was disappointed in the lack of response by the Region 8 Board.

The meeting began with Chair Jerry White announcing that the issue of a fence was now moot, since the school no longer planned to have a fence on the water side. That decision was made because staff wanted access to the water for educational purposes.

But under questioning from Maines, a former mayor and former city attorney for Rockland, school officials acknowledged the plan now was to have the fences on the east and west property lines go all the way to the water.

City officials said after the meeting that a fence to the water would restrict public access more than the fence that the technical school had wanted to erect.

Maines said after the meeting that she was upset that the school was trying to mislead the community by not offering the fact that it had planned to erect the fence to the water.

Laustsen and Maines said the fence cannot be extended to the waterfront without the vocational school's coming back before the Planning Board for review and a vote by the board.

Midcoast School of Technology Executive Director Elizabeth Fisher said a fence was needed to protect students, and that was the top priority for the school.

Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell said Thursday, Aug. 29, that he spoke with Fisher on Thursday and she "agreed to keep the harbor trail talks open and not cut off public access at this time with a fence."

The Rockland Planning Board had voted Aug. 20 to approve a fence along the back that would allow public access. The board also directed that school officials undertake good faith negotiations with Rockland on the possible extension of the Rockland Harbor Trail over the property between the back fence and the water.

Fisher said at the Aug. 28 meeting that the fence could be designed to have a gate, so that it could be opened for public access when school is not in session.

Luttrell attended the Aug. 28 meeting and told that board that he was willing to begin good faith negotiations.

The board had no response after Luttrell spoke. Laustsen said that after Luttrell left, a board member suggested that a few board members should meet with the city manager on the issue. Laustsen and Maines said, however, the board did not vote to appoint anyone to a committee nor did it say when it would be created or the issue addressed.

An email was sent Thursday morning to White asking for additional information. There has been no response.

Resident James Leach asked the board to allow public access, saying there would not be an avalanche of people using the land if it becomes an extension of the Rockland Harbor Trail.

Louise MacLellan Ruf, who chairs the Rockland Harbor Trail Committee, said it appears the school officials did not want to work with the city. "The community is not happy. Don't fence the students in, don't fence the community out," she said.

MacLellan-Ruf said the trail committee had worked with various property owners over the years, and she does not expect less from Region 8.

School instructor Seth Walton said his concern is the safety of students and controlling access to the property.

Laustsen said after the meeting that he was also disappointed that the Region 8 Board did not discuss limitations on the use of a proposed amphitheater to be developed on the back property. The Planning Board had directed in July for the school to come back with proposed limitations, such as the hours it would be used, but that there had been no response.

The Planning Board has taken no action on the proposal for the amphitheater.

Several neighbors spoke and asked for relief from what they said was the loud noise coming from the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system on the roof.

"There is a real problem with noise. This is an intrusion on our lives and needs to be taken seriously," Leach said. "It sounds like a jet revving up on the tarmac," he added.

Neighbor Walter Wotton, who has lived on the Owls Head side of the property since 1968, before the old building used by the vocational school was built, also said the loud noise from the HVAC system was disruptive. He said it sounds like an airplane.

The school will open Tuesday, Sept. 3.

An open house is scheduled for Sept. 9 from 2 to 7 p.m.

Comments (13)
Posted by: Erik Laustsen | Sep 03, 2019 12:20

To clarify the “Fencegate debacle” timeline I thought it might be helpful if I outlined the sequence of submittals to the Planning Board from Region 8 Mid-Coast School of Technology.

The original submittals did NOT include the perimeter fencing.These submittals, including the Site plan,were reviewed at the 3/7/17 Planning Board meeting at which time a public hearing was held.On 6/6/17 the plan came back to us with required additional information and was approved that evening with conditions, but still without the request for fencing . I personally requested that the director contact the Harbor Trail Committee to work with them. Again on 8/15/17 the Planning Board reviewed the Site plan for required additional information and revisions with still no mention of fencing.

Finally on July 9, 2019 , well over two years since the original submittals, a revised site plan was presented to the Planning Board which included the perimeter fencing. At this time the Planning Board became alarmed that the proposed fencing would close off public access .There has been public access for 43 years that many Rockland residents have enjoyed. The question becomes has this created a prescriptive easement for the city of Rockland and its residents.

The fencing was obviously not an original thought or concern since it took well over two years to propose it when the building was nearing completion.The Region 8 Board had a meeting on 8/28/19 and stated that the fencing on the harbor side was eliminated on the plan but it was later revealed by Planning Board member Carol Maines, in a question posed to the Region 8 Board ,that the proposed fence would now run down to the water on both the north and south sides blocking all public access. Also at this same meeting , the Region 8 Board had fencing on their agenda but skipped over it without discussion. Now the school will have to once again meet with the Planning Board to review the fencing for the possibility of approval. Erik Laustsen

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Sep 01, 2019 09:06

So Jimmy wasn't it Marie Antoinette that seemed to present a similar attitude towards the dancing peasants ?  And in the end I believe it was the dancing peasants that had the last word. If she seems unable to hear the noise from the roof unit, that should not strike you as unusual.  She has not heard anything you or the others have said so far.

Posted by: James Clinton Leach | Sep 01, 2019 07:28

After being told the Board hadn’t met since there last meeting in June, it was apparent that Director Fisher did not  keep them in the loop regarding  the Harbor walk and noise issue......To the Board you might have felt  we came on a little strong , not knowing this was our 3rd encounter with the Director and our concerns falling on her deaf ears frustration  had set in. At the most recent meeting a Board member kindly ask the Director to stop having a conversation with the person next to her while I was speaking...The plan and simple Truth is The Director does not give a hoot about the neighbors or the City of Rockland one bit !  She fabricates far fetched story’s of why they need the fence...Dogs, Citizens entering the Campus were a few ,....She went so far as to State she had to fend off, drugs and alcohols being used and  pedophiles ....Odd I found no police records regarding these occurrences....And the noise issue, her response has been, she has walked around the School plenty of times and not heard nothing she also walked down Mechanic St and didn’t hear a thing she stated .And the 25 now 34 neighbors that have signed the petition complaining about the roof top systems are “ misinformed “ hearing things according to Dictator Fisher ...Wholly Toledo...really...

Posted by: James Bowers | Aug 31, 2019 10:22

So school officials must be worried that we'll be storming the school and attacking students from the harbor trail? The fence is their version of Trump's wall I guess. Ugly and useless.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Aug 31, 2019 09:47

By the way Gerald please note the fine architectural work of the building design.  I understand the whole structural thing, but to place giant steel beams crossing the entire expanse of windows and blocking the million dollar view of the harbor ?  Couldn't we have done a little better job ?  Who was the architect on this project ? It's kind of a big X which could mean "do not pass".

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Aug 31, 2019 09:31

You know they say " a picture is worth a thousand words", well please note the photo of the region 8 board sitting in their new tower and I believe that color is ivory.   I remember when our two boys were growing up.  When one would get a shiny new toy, there would be a big fight when the other wanted to share.  This seems to be the case with the new votech center.  Bravo to Vallie geiger for her accurate assessment of indulgences granted by the city to assist in the creation of this new school and the support of the public and their willingness to pony up millions to make this possible.  Well mss. Mss. Fisher "payback's a B..."  With a small change of heart the school could take their extra funds and create a public park that could be enjoyed by everyone including students. This certainly would go a long way to change public opinion which the board seems to care little about.  Oh, and Steve why just one line on the noise issue which from the previous piece I thought was a big deal ?

Posted by: Valli Genevieve Geiger | Aug 31, 2019 08:20

So, the school of technology came before council requesting an ordinance change to build their new school. They insisted that 200 other sites looked at were unacceptable. Rockland City Council changed the ordinance for them. The community voted to bond this school, and pay for it. City Council was again asked to grant an easement, which was granted. No other school in the area fences in its grounds to prevent its use. The Community of Rockland has bent over backwards for this school, it is more than time for Ms Fisher to do the same.

Valli Geiger

Posted by: johanna stadler | Aug 31, 2019 05:53

tax payers foot the big time bill for this, and yet.... the walking trail is important also to rockland.  THe school needs to cut the shit and let that happen.  Such a nice place, they could cooperate a bit with the town.  I think someone doesn't want to share their lovely new toy box......idiots make it happen.

Posted by: Bill Packard | Aug 30, 2019 18:06

Those students were very lucky all those years that the school has been on that property that nobody attacked them from the water.

Posted by: Bill Packard | Aug 30, 2019 18:06

Those students were very lucky all those years that the school has been on that property that nobody attacked them from the water.

Posted by: Lee H. Marshall | Aug 30, 2019 15:09

Katheryn, that was my thoughts too. To limit what has become a public right of way is something that could be fought and won in court.


We had out-of-state neighbors purchase homes on the water behind my property in Rockport. They erected a fence that blocked a readily used pathway that had been there for much  longer than I have been alive. I used to enjoy walking that trail until the fence was rudely put in place to keep us locals out. They were forced to take down their fence and peace has been restored.

Lee D. Marshall

Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Aug 30, 2019 12:33

What about common law that says if the public has used a pathway for more than 20 years, they have a right to continue?  I have heard this since I was a child. It may have been added to state or Federal law as well.

Posted by: Drucinda Woodman | Aug 30, 2019 11:34

I am confused regarding the need for the fence to protect the students.  I am not aware of fences which lock out the public from entry onto any of the school properties in Rockland.  I assume that the buildings are equipped with appropriate locking entryways as the other schools are. What are they basing fears on?  Has something occurred at the MCST in the past regarding threats to student and staff safety from the water?  Pirates?  Tom Woodman

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