ROCKLAND — Approximately 125 citizens and members of the Rockland City Council sat in the former Amalfi Restaurant Wednesday, Feb. 26, to listen as representatives of Rockland Harbor Park LLC, the business behind the proposal to build a new hotel on the Rockland waterfront, answered their questions about the $6.5 million project.
The meeting was billed as an informal neighborhood session about the project, which has been proposed by Stuart and Marianne Smith for property at 12 Ocean Street in Rockland. The public’s questions pertained to the hotel’s design, its height, parking capacity, public access, jobs and the future of the boardwalk.
Stuart Smith was there, along with Erick Anderson, general manager for Lord Camden Inn and Grand Harbor Inn; Laura Mowrey, assistant manager for Lord Camden and Grand Harbor inns; Bill Lane, engineer with Gartley and Dorsky Engineering and Surveying; Mathew Levin, operations and marketing manager for Bay View Management Company; and Tyler Smith, engineer for Bay View Management Company.
John Hansen, lead architect for the 65-room Rockland Harbor Inn, was unable to attend.
For almost two hours, the panel addressed questions and concerns, including how the boardwalk would be cleared in the winter. Smith said the boardwalk belongs to the city, but once the inn opens, the business would budget to keep it clear.
“The boardwalk has been a little bit of a sticky point since we’ve owned the property and have not gone to the expense of plowing, sanding and salting,” Smith said. “The first year we owned it the contract price to do that was $15,000 and we just couldn’t justify the expense; but once we have the hotel in operation we’ll definitely have people who will want to use the boardwalk. The changes for the daycare center and fitness center, those people will want to use the boardwalk. People will want to get out of their rooms and walk along the boardwalk, even on a cold blustery morning, and we’ll look forward to doing that for them. “
Rockland Mayor Larry Pritchett said after the meeting: “I think anybody in Rockland would be concerned if they thought access was going to be restricted in any way. It’s clear they have no intention of doing that. Interestingly enough, the Harbor Park redesign meeting came up and the reason Harbor Park Inn was there was because we were trying to figure out how to get people to the downtown when festivals are taking place. Right now, you can’t get there, it’s a dead end and part of the redesign was to figure out how to get to Main Street and vise versa without resorting to individual escorts.”
Rockland Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said: “I think it’s terrific Stuart Smith invited the public to have some input. I really do hope he listens to the concerns about the height, about the visual. He made it clear he has the zoning and the ability to do what he wants. I think it’s really important he includes the public in his decision-making process.”
One woman asked if the hotel would be pet-friendly like certain lodging establishments in Camden. Erick Anderson said being accommodating to pets was one of the objectives.
“Camden is a pet-friendly town and I’m assuming Rockland is, too,” said Anderson. “We’re very luck to receive a number of awards for being pet-friendly, as well as being voted by Downeast Dog News for being the number one pet-friendly lodging establishment in Maine.”
Some citizens were concerned about the height of the hotel. Several who live across from the property wondered if their views would be obstructed. Smith cited to the proposed drawings of the hotel, saying that on the street side it was only three stories tall. He said views would not be greatly affected, no more than the trees already in place obstructed views, he said.
A South End resident asked if the playground across from the property, and which had fallen into disrepair, might be revitalized. Smith had earlier pointed out the damage to the park benches, fence and gazebo that had been caused because people had access to the grounds 24 hours a day. Tyler Smith said the playground was a city-owned piece of land.
“My guess is that with the daycare facility coming into the space we’re in now, it would be a big concern for the daycare people,” said Smith. “They’ll not only want to use the boardwalk, but want to let kids go across the street to play. I would imagine you would see improvements to that. Not connected to the hotel, but with the daycare project.”
Stuart Smith closed the meeting by suggesting if they do it again, they make it a potluck gathering.