ROCKLAND, Maine — The owner of the Brass Compass restaurant has formally asked the city council to reconsider its April 9 vote that rejected her continued use of a 12-foot strip of land in a park named after two World War I veterans.
The council voted 3-2 to reject Brass Compass’ request to place 10 tables with chairs on the strip that abuts the restaurant at Winslow-Holbrook Square. One of the reasons cited for the vote was opposition by other businesses to the use of public property by a private commercial operation. Another was the belief that the use might be disrespectful to the veterans the park is intended to honor.
Rockland, however, has several pieces of land, including one to honor veterans from another war, which are used by private businesses.
Brass Compass owner Lynn Archer said a precedent has been set and she questioned why the council listened to opposition from nearly 30 businesses versus what she said were the unsolicited signatures of more than 400 people who supported her restaurant being allowed to use the space for another year.
Archer paid $25 per table per year last year. She was allowed to have the tables there from May 15 through Oct. 15. One of the stipulations was that people who sit at the tables are not required to purchase anything from the restaurant.
A review of city records shows that there are other properties in the city used by businesses.
For instance, the city signed an agreement in 1989 with the owners of Dunkin Donuts to allow that business to use seven parking spaces that are part of the Ralph Ulmer Square at the intersection of Main and North Main streets. That park honors the men who died while serving in the Spanish American War in 1898.
The agreement was an extension of a verbal agreement that had been ongoing since 1971. The 1989 written agreement allows the business to use the property in exchange for erecting the flagpole at the site and maintaining the shrubs.
The city also allows the Rockland Farmers Market to use Harbor Park once a week from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from May through October. The city charges the farmers market $250 per year.
The city also leases the Mildred Merrill Park, located above Harbor Park, to a market of local artists. The artists market also is charged $250 per year for the same period of use as the farmers market.
There are two available spaces for vendors to sell food at Buoy Park on the waterfront, although only one vendor has used the park during the past few years, according to Harbor Master Ed Glaser. He said Shell’s Southwest is not expected to return this year and no one else has applied to be a vendor at the site.
The city charges vendors $3,000 per year to set up a vendor stand at Buoy Park from May 1 through Oct. 30.
The city also leases space at Snow Marine Park in the South End. The former Sea Scouts building has been used for the past few years by Jim Sharp of Camden for a food shack. He is not seeking to use it again this year.
The city has been charging $4,500 per year for that property.
Glaser said there have been a few people interested in the Sea Scout property but no applications yet.
The city also sets aside one space for a vendor at Johnson Memorial Park at Chickawaukie Lake. There was one proposal from a vendor but the city council rejected Stephen Carroll’s request to lower the price from $1,500 to $750. The space also can be used from May 1 through Oct. 31.
Those park spaces are given to vendors on a first-come, first-served basis.
The city also leases space on the Rockland Fish Pier for lobster buyers and bait dealers, Glaser said.
Rockland leases Harbor Park for annual summer events such as the North Atlantic Blues Festival and Maine Boats, Homes & Harbor. The city charges $2,100 a day for exclusive use of the adjacent Harbor Park, Buoy Park and Mildred Merrill Park.
The city also allows businesses to place tables on the sidewalk in front of their establishments if they receive a permit from the code office for $25 per table.
Rockland Mayor Brian Harden said Tuesday that he does not intend to vote to reconsider the council’s rejection of Archer’s request to use the property. He said he wants emotions to cool and then allow the council to conduct a comprehensive discussion with all parties about the use of Winslow Holbrook Square.
“The sooner all sides can be heard, the better,” Harden said.
He said what makes the city seem inconsistent concerning the use of city properties by commercial ventures is the different uses. He said the use of the square to sell food is different than the summer events held at Harbor Park.
Harden said he was unaware of the agreement for the use of Ulmer Park.
The Winslow Holbrook Square is 43 feet by 47 feet and the Brass Compass’ use of 12 feet takes up a sizeable portion of it, he said. He added that he is not saying that Archer will not be allowed tables, but that it may be under different conditions.
The city could end up placing tables in the park on its own and allow people to bring food there but not allow food to be served outside.
Harden said just because the city has allowed Archer to have tables there since 2005 does not mean she has a right to continue.
Meanwhile, Archer has placed three tables against her Main Street building facing Winslow Holbrook Square. She maintains that she owns 4 feet from her building on the Main Street end of the park.
The city’s code officer, however, said city records show that she owns about 2 feet.
City Attorney Kevin Beal said he has requested that Archer provide the city with a copy of her survey that shows she owns 4 feet.