ROCKLAND, Maine — The Brass Compass Cafe has made its annual request to lease a strip of a downtown city park, a move that led to months of sometimes acrimonious meetings last year.
Restaurant owner Lynn Archer sent the letter to the city last week. The request is included in the city council’s agenda for its Monday night meeting although no vote would be taken before the Monday, March 11, meeting.
Archer has requested using a 12-foot strip of the Winslow-Holbrook-Merritt Park at the intersection of Main Street and Park Drive. She has leased a strip of the park, adjacent to her cafe, for the past 10 years.
Last year, a sharply divided council voted to allow Archer to use an 8-foot strip for $1,200 per year. The approval, however, was not granted until June 11 and only after months of debate-filled meetings in which numerous residents from both sides of the debate came out and spoke.
Archer stated Sunday night that she hopes this year’s request will go easier than in 2012.
The agreement reached last year was brokered with the help of Councilor William Clayton, who has since been elected mayor by the councilors.
Archer has said that her use of the park for outside seating from late spring through early autumn highlights activity in downtown Rockland.
Opponents included some people who criticized the use of a commercial venture at a park dedicated to veterans while others said that it was unfair for a private company to use city land.
The request was rejected twice on 3-2 votes but by June 11 after several amendments that included increasing the payment by Archer, the council unanimously approved the restaurant’s use of the strip of land.
The council also voiced support last year for establishing city-owned concrete tables and benches at the park. The city purchased the tables and benches, but they remain in storage.
City Manager James Smith said Monday he expects the council to be presented next month a proposed design for the park along with construction estimates.
Mayor William Clayton said Monday he continues to support allowing the Brass Compass to use the strip of land adjacent to her restaurant.
He also said that the city-owned tables and benches could be placed at the proposed park on city-owned land overlooking the Maine State Ferry Service.
“I want to get them out of storage. That’s the last place they should be,” he said of the tables and benches.