Rockland rejects restaurant request but supports extreme bird feeding ban

Posted May 14, 2012, at 9:47 p.m.
Last modified May 15, 2012, at 12:41 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A sharply divided City Council refused for the second straight month a request by a local restaurant to use a 12-foot strip of public land adjacent to its building.

The council voted 3-2 Monday night to reject an order to allow the Brass Compass to place 10 tables with chairs on the strip of land at the edge of Winslow-Holbrook Park.

The vote came minutes after the council voted 4-1 to approve spending up to $10,000 for benches and tables to be placed at the park for public use.

Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson sharply criticized both actions.

“We have neighbors to the north and the south who are ramping up their economic development efforts” while the City Council is spending its time on control of a park, Dickerson said.

She called the $10,000 to be spent on concrete tables and benches a boondoggle since there is no overall plan for the park. She noted the city also is talking about spending another $25,000 on the park including redoing some brick work done last year.

Dickerson said the rejection of the Brass Compass request will do nothing to benefit the city.

“We can congratulate ourselves on no one using the park,” she said.

Councilor William Clayton questioned whether the council was focusing on pro-business efforts with the rejection of the Brass Compass request. He said last month councilors who voted against the Brass Compass request said they were doing so because they did not want the Brass Compass tables and chairs to get in the way of renovations to the park. But this month it is clear that there is no overall plan for this summer.

Councilor Eric Hebert said his objection to the Brass Compass request is that it gives an unfair economic advantage to the business simply because it is located near a city park. He also said that $250 a year for the tables was not adequate.

“This doesn’t pass the straight-face test,” Hebert said.

Mayor Brian Harden said that public tables and benches are in a concept plan for the park that the council approved in 2009. He said not to do the work while other downtown sidewalk work is being done would be a step backward.

The council also voted to accept the donation of a stone for a memorial that will be placed at the park in honor of the two Rockland residents who died fighting in World War I. A dedication of the memorial is expected to be occur on Memorial Day.

In other action Monday night, the council voted unanimously to give preliminary approval to an ordinance that would ban the feeding of birds and other wildlife if it creates a nuisance.

The woman at the center of the debate, Susie Gray, appeared before the council to urge councilors not to approve the ordinance. Gray said since she was cited by the code officer last week for health violations connected to her feeding of sea gulls she has stopped her feedings.

There was little debate Monday night except for how broad the ordinance should be. No one else from the public spoke on the ordinance.

A formal public hearing and final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for June 11.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story contained an error. A vote by the Rockland City Council on whether to spend up to $10,000 on tables and benches for Winslow-Holbrook Park was 4-1, not 3-2.

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