ROCKLAND, Maine — The City Council agreed Monday night to allow the Brass Compass to lease a strip of a downtown city park again this summer.
The issue has been a divisive one in past years and the public debate Monday night was a repeat of the past few years. Brass Compass owner Lynn Archer reminded councilors that before she set up tables and chairs on the edge of the Winslow-Holbrook Square, it was little-used and unattractive.
Gaye Best, niece of Albert Holbrook, who was one of the two men for which the park was named, said use of the park for commercial purposes was improper.
Leslie Spiers of Rockland said it was not fair for the city to allow publicly owned property to be used by a for-profit business.
The council vote Monday night was unanimous.
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson said people need to put personalities aside and focus on doing business. Dickerson said the majority of people she has spoken with have wanted dining at the downtown square.
Councilor Eric Hebert said both uses — restaurant seating and a veterans memorial — can co-exist. Hebert said the tables lend a vibrant feeling to downtown. Hebert said raising the price satisfied his concern about allowing a private business to use a portion of the city park.
Councilor Larry Pritchett said he would not have supported the use last year or this year if he felt it was disrespectful to veterans. He said allowing 10 feet of the park to be used by the restaurant was workable.
Pritchett said it was important for the city to move forward with redesign of the park at the intersection of Main Street and Park Drive so that there can be multiple compatible uses of the park.
The council voiced support last year for placing city-owned granite tables and benches at the park. The city purchased the tables and benches, but they remain in storage.
City Manager James Smith said last week he expects a proposed design and construction estimates for the park to be presented to the council next month.
Archer requested use of 12 feet but councilors voted Monday night to limit the use to 10 feet. The 10 feet, however, is more than the 8-foot strip the restaurant used in 2012.
Councilor Frank Isganitis proposed, and councilors approved, increasing the annual lease fee to $1,500 in 2013. Last year, the city charged Archer $1,200 from June 11 through Oct. 31. This year’s lease will begin May 15 and run through Oct. 31.
Pritchett said an increase in the price was reasonable since the city was allowing her to use a larger space and for a longer period, including Memorial Day weekend.
Last year the issue led to months of sometimes acrimonious meetings of the City Council. The council initially voted twice to reject the request before it agreed on June 11.