ROCKLAND, Maine — After months of debate and acrimony, the City Council agreed Monday night to allow a downtown restaurant to continue to place tables in a city park.
And the council also addressed last week’s incident in which the mayor and a councilor threw a hat at each other.
At the Monday night meeting, the council unanimously approved a compromise submitted by Councilor Larry Pritchett to allow the Brass Compass to set up tables on an 8-foot strip of the Winslow-Holbrook Park adjacent to the restaurant. The restaurant will be charged $1,200 per year through Oct. 31.
The restaurant paid $25 per table per year last year for 10 tables in a 12-foot strip adjacent to the building.
Councilor William Clayton, who has supported the Brass Compass request on two earlier votes in April and May, said he toured the park since the last meeting with Pritchett, who voted against the restaurant request during the past two months.
Clayton said while the two councilors were in the park a father and son came out of the Brass Compass after a meal and the father took a photo of his son next to a banner outside the restaurant. The two then walked over to the other side of the park and read the wording on the memorial plaque.
The council voted 3-2 in both April and May against the restaurant’s use of the park. The Brass Compass has used the park for the past nine years, paying various fees.
“That’s co-existence in the most simple form,” Clayton said.
Brass Compass owner Lynn Archer said she never meant for her request — to continue placing tables adjacent to her property — to create the negativity that has occurred during the past few months.
“I just wanted to create business, promote Rockland and improve the park,” Archer said.
Archer said she was invited to a small-business development conference last week by Gov. Paul LePage. She said all people wanted to talk about with her was the contentious council meeting of last week.
Archer said she was willing to compromise by paying more and using less space but feels that she has been treated unfairly. After Monday night’s vote, she said the agreement was acceptable.
Former Mayor Tom Molloy said he strongly believes the park can be used for multiple purposes, including as a memorial park and for outside seating for the Brass Compass.
Mike Phillips of Rockland said he felt it was inappropriate for the city to allow the park to be used for the profit of a private business.
Gaye Best of Rockland, whose uncle is one of the two city natives who died in World War I and had the park named after them, voiced her opposition again to the use of the park by the Brass Compass.
Attorney Jason Heath argued before the council that considering this matter again was against the Robert’s Rules of Order that the council is required to follow.
Councilor Eric Hebert responded to criticism of councilors who had voted against the agreement with the Brass Compass during the past two months. Hebert said he never argued against the restaurant’s use of the park but felt that a comprehensive review of its use should be held first and that Archer should pay market costs for use.
The restaurant issue consumed the first 3½ hours of the council meeting.
During Monday night’s meeting, Mayor Brian Harden apologized for his behavior last week in which he tossed his cap at Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson during a disagreement over entering into a closed-door session on litigation, economic development and union negotiations.
Dickerson threw the cap back at the mayor and then turned an empty soda can upside down on the table in front of him.
“I’m sorry it happened. It was entirely my fault,” Harden said.
The apology came after Councilors Pritchett, Clayton and Hebert each took turns addressing the behavior of the two other councilors last week.
“Flying hats, patronizing language, tossed soda cans and disruptive conduct undercut the work of all of city government and tarnishes the image of Rockland as a place to live and do business,” Pritchett said. “I recognize that we live in an era of food-fight politics. To narrow audiences, this type of conduct may seem like good politics. But, to me, it is a totally unacceptable way to govern.”
Pritchett said both Dickerson and Harden have the best interests of the city in mind but he expects better from them and the public expects better from the council.
Clayton said last week’s actions tainted not only the two members and the entire council but the entire city. He said the time for theatrics should be over.
Hebert said he is sorry he failed to intervene when the incident occurred last week.
Dickerson did not comment on the matter during the Monday night meeting.