No building permit, yet

Required traffic study for Rockport Harbor Hotel completed, offsite parking and valet concerns raised

Mon, 03/14/2022 - 5:15pm

    ROCKPORT — Gorrill Palmer, the transportation engineering firm required by the Town of Rockport, has produced its traffic study of the parking capacity and plans for the Rockport Harbor Hotel now under construction on Central Street in Rockport Village.

    The hotel is to have 20 rooms and an 84-seat restaurant bar.

    The study was paid for by 20 Central LLC, the company that is building the hotel, and was the result of a January court order by a Knox County judge. 

    Town ordinance, as approved by voters in 2020, was amended and stipulates: “No off-site or shared parking, or waiver of parking requirements, shall be approved unless it is supported by an independent traffic study prepared by a qualified professional, hired by the reviewing authority and paid for by the applicant, which establishes that the parking facility is adequate for the proposed use and any shared use(s) will not cause undue burdens on traffic or parking in the vicinity, and will not cause safety concerns.”

    Designated as a peer review, the traffic study was completed by Gorrill Palmer and headed up by Project Manager Randy Dunton. The study was submitted to the town Feb. 28.

    In it, Gorrill Palmer concurred that the proposed 21 parking spaces on Sandy’s Way, behind the new Rockport Harbor Hotel, and the 35 offsite parking spaces, for a total of 56 spaces, met the municipal ordinance requirements.

    “As the 2018 Town Ordinance did not include any provisions for shared use of parking facilities, the total parking requirement per the Ordinance for the project is 56 spaces (28 Hotel + 28 Restaurant),” wrote Gorrill Palmer. “This total assumes that no patron of the hotel is also a patron of the restaurant, which would be conservative.”

    But there were reservations about the proposed offsite parking lot on Route 1, at the former Hoboken Gardens. Gorrill Palmer said it has not been proven to be a safe location.

    “It is our opinion that because this site accesses directly onto Route 1, and the proposed use is a change in use from the current activity, that this site will require a MaineDOT Entrance Permit,” the study said. “It is our recommendation that the Maine DOT be contacted to determine if a Maine DOT permit is required. If one is required, that permit should be applied for and the process should be followed. If an Entrance Permit is not required, it is our recommendation that the applicant provide a design of the parking area and access to Route 1 that meets Town Standards.

    “At a minimum, the applicant should provide a design that meets applicable sight distance requirements and approach grades for the site driveway to Route 1.

    “Off-site satellite parking lot evaluation conclusion: Based on our field review, the driveway approach to Route 1 is steep (10-15%) and sight distances at the driveway may be limited,” wrote Gorrill Palmer. “The Maine Dept. of Transportation has not been contacted regarding the proposed parking lot and potential need for an Entrance Permit. In our opinion, this location has not been proven to be a safe and viable off-site location until these outstanding items have been addressed.”

    Regarding the parking valet system, which has cited the use of e-bikes by valets from Rockport Village to Hoboken, the study said the proposed valet parking component of the parking system could cause safety concerns.

    “Based on our field review of the adjacent roadway network between the project site and the proposed satellite parking lot, the roads are narrow, winding, and had numerous blind spots where someone on an e-bike (or any bike) would not be seen until they were very close,” wrote Gorrill Palmer. “It is our professional opinion that this route may be unsafe for e-bikes (or bicycles), especially on a regular day to day basis. This potentially unsafe condition is exacerbated at night and in wintertime or times of inclement weather.”

    As of March 11, the Rockport Planning and Code Enforcement Office had yet to issue a building permit for the revised hotel room design. 

    “We don’t have an application, yet,” said Rockport Planning and Development Director Orion Thomas.