April 19, 2018
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Rockland man criticizes city in zone change request

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A businessman seeking a zone change from the city council has issued a scathing complaint about city officials in his email request for the switch.

Stephen Carroll sent an email to Mayor Brian Harden asking for a zone change of Carroll’s property at 526 Old County Road. He asks that the property, where a single-family home is located, be changed from residential to neighborhood commercial, which would allow for a business to operate there.

While the application does not specify what business Carroll wants to run, city officials say he has talked about operating a farm stand from the home.

Carroll’s property is located at the intersection of Lake Avenue. Across from Lake Avenue in a neighborhood commercial zone is a convenience store at the intersection of Route 17 and Old County Road.

Carroll states in his Aug. 20 email that he met two months ago with the code enforcement officer who saw no problem with the request and recommended he meet with the city manager. Carroll claimed in his email, however, that the manager would not meet with him and told him to make the request to the city council.

City Manager James Smith said Thursday he has never talked to Carroll about a zone change request.

Code Officer John Root said he never told Carroll that he saw no problem with the request but instead told him that it would be a tough sell and that he should speak to the manager.

Carroll further claimed in his letter that he contacted Councilor William Clayton who told him that the change would be virtually impossible.

Clayton acknowledged that he said that changing the entire zone would be virtually impossible but said he told Carroll he should look at trying to get a particular use allowed in the residential zone. Clayton said Carroll talked about operating a farm stand of some type but was not more specific.

Mayor Brian Harden said he is not sure about the zone change request sought by Carroll, noting that such a change would push commercial activities into a residential stretch of Old County Road. Harden pointed out that Carroll is a cousin.

In his email asking the council to take up his request at its Sept. 5 meeting, Carroll criticizes the councilors.

“As I watch the recent award-winning performances by Lynn Archer and Joe Steinberger before the city council, I wonder if the council is giving citizens but one road to travel? When you begin the conversation with ‘Your request will be virtually impossible,’ it gives a person little negotiating room,” Carroll wrote.

Last month, former Councilor Joseph Steinberger blasted the council at a meeting over its refusal to allow his group The Old School to tour the closed MacDougal School and inspect it for possible use as an arts and education center. Steinberger called the council incompetent and blamed it for the loss of the Watershed School that had been housed in the former Lincoln Street Center for Arts and Education.

The chairman of the Watershed School, however, later said the city had worked hard with the school to find a new home in Rockland and that the effort was unsuccessful for no fault of the council.

Lynn Archer operates the Brass Compass Cafe and had been locked in a dispute with the council during the spring and early summer over whether she could continue to put tables and chairs on a strip of land adjacent to her restaurant at the end of Winslow-Holbrook Park. The council eventually granted her request.

“I would like to stay on the high road and would like to work with the council to forward my plans,” Carroll stated.

He added that if the council is discouraged by inappropriate behavior of citizens coming before them with requests “perhaps it should consider the course it sets for such behavior.”

Carroll earlier this year had sought permission to operate a food concession stand at Johnson Memorial Park at the city-owned beach at Chickawaukie Lake. The council was willing to allow the business but would not lower the price that it has set for such use. In April it voted 3-2 against his request to lower the vendor fee from $1,500 to $750 for the season.

There has been no food vendor at the lakefront park for the past three years.

Clayton said he has been taken aback by Carroll’s comments that indicate that the city council is anti-business, noting he supported Carroll’s request to reduce the fee and has also tried working with Carroll to get his zoning issue addressed by the city.

Carroll did not return a telephone message left with him on Wednesday evening.

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