ROCKLAND, Maine — The Brass Compass Cafe’s outdoor seating is once again open for business, after a Monday night City Council 4-1 vote to let the owner set up 10 tables in the city-owned Winslow-Holbrook Park as usual.
“It’s a huge relief,” owner Lynn Archer said. “It’s been a huge burden and it’s been a waiting game for everybody.”
The cafe and the Trade Winds Motor Inn border the pocket park, which has been of interest to the city recently in part because of major planned improvements. The two had put in requests to set up dining areas on part of the park.
Not everyone was in favor of that usage.
“What this means is you are giving the use of 41 percent of this public park for private enterprise. I personally don’t want to do that,” Rockland resident Linda Webbenhurst said.
The council unanimously voted against allowing the Trade Winds Motor Inn to use an 8-foot-wide strip of park for the same purpose of outdoor dining.
A contingent from the Brass Compass Cafe spoke persuasively about the tables, which Archer said accounted for half the restaurant’s summer business.
“I look forward to the summer because that’s my time to make money,” said waitress Renee Egan, who told the council that she supports a family on her earnings. “I don’t think we invade the park too much, and I think it’s a way to enjoy the park and have people there.”
Councilor Thomas Molloy spoke in favor of the Brass Compass’ quest.
“If it’s not broken, why are we trying to fix it?” he asked. “For the past four years, the Brass Compass has been utilizing this property and they’ve kept it in excellent shape … I think those tables and chairs are essential to her summer business.”
In other news, the council was divided on the matter of two amendments to the city’s Rules of Procedure ordinances. One of the changes, which were proposed by Councilor Brian Harden, would allow any councilor to add ordinances, orders or resolves to the council’s agenda. Such changes now must go through the mayor. The other amendment would have made it a rule to have a monthly agenda-setting meeting for the council.
“Agenda-setting meetings is a time when our transparency is obvious, a time when regular citizens can come to the table,” Harden said. “This type of erosion of the democratic process is not collaborative, not cooperative, not helpful to the council.”
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson said that while she has no issues with having agenda-setting meetings, she wasn’t in favor of amending these ordinances.
“I am the last person in the world who’s going to strike at the democratic process,” she said. “I am going to strike at the manipulative process.”
Both ordinances were defeated 3-2. Councilors Harden and Eric Hebert voted in favor.