Dispute may end in court

Rockland's attorney urges rejection of waterfront restaurant

By Stephen Betts | Mar 06, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts The city's attorney has advised the Rockland Planning Board to reject the construction of a proposed restaurant on property that would block this road used to reach Harbor Park.

Rockland — The city's attorney has advised the Rockland Planning Board to reject the proposed construction of a restaurant on land that has been used for decades as one of two roads to get to the heavily used Harbor Park.

Nonetheless, the Planning Board held a second meeting Tuesday night, March 5, to review the proposal by the Waterfront Group, which consists of Crystal Darling and John Conte. The Waterfront Group owns the parcel that includes the Pearl Restaurant, and the former Conte's Restaurant building.

This parcel also extends across the road and to a grassy area in back of the police station.

"The City opposes the application on the basis that the proposed building would block a public way," city attorney Mary Costigan stated in a March 5 letter to the Planning Board.

Costigan pointed out that the road has been used by the public for decades to get from Buoy Park to Harbor Park.

"Due to the history of use as a public way, the City has likely obtained a prescriptive easement over the land," the attorney stated.

Costigan's letter also revealed that the city had begun the process for purchasing all private property that the road -- named Police Plaza -- crosses, or taking the properties by eminent domain if such a direct purchase is unsuccessful.

The Waterfront Group has proposed constructing a 2,000-square-foot building on the portion of its property where the road is located. The building that once housed Conte's Restaurant would be demolished.

The building is proposed for the new location to better meet setback requirements and be in a less restrictive flood plain zone.

Darling said that the Waterfront Group is marketing the entire parcel for sale and that the new building would make it more valuable.

Code Officer John Root reiterated his proposed compromise where the city and the Waterfront Group could exchange small pieces of property so that the company could build a similar-size building that would not block the road. Neither the city nor Darling has indicated support for that plan.

Root said the Waterfront Group would benefit from the swap because more of the building would be facing the water, rather than the parking lot. Darling said, however, it was her choice to build it as she proposed.

City Manager Tom Luttrell told the Planning Board that the city is also trying to find developers who would want to purchase the property and grant the city the right-of-way on the section where the road is located.

The City Council will vote Monday evening, March 11, on directing that a survey and appraisal be done on the parcel in the event the city buys it or seizes it by eminent domain.

The Planning Board will continue its review of the restaurant proposal April 2.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Mar 06, 2019 11:52

Here come the expensive legal fees that Rockland tax payers will be struck with.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Mar 06, 2019 09:12

Do we really want this to end up in court where the only winners will be the lawyers or can we solve this equitably, as Mr. Root suggests, with a win-win situation?

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