ROCKLAND, Maine — The owner of a downtown restaurant at the center of an ongoing saga over her use of a city park claims that a neighboring hotel has been occupying public property at no cost.
“Each year I have a monumental task to use a small portion of the park,” Brass Compass owner Lynn Archer stated in a letter to the City Council. “This year I was required to pay $1,500 for 8 feet with six pages of rules that I must abide by.”
Like crocuses, every spring when Archer opens her outdoor cafe the issue arises.
She leases an 8-foot strip on the north side of the park at the intersection of Main Street and Park Drive.
A dinner roll’s throw away Robert Liberty who owns the adjacent Trade Winds Motor Inn has been allowed to use a 4-foot-wide strip of land at no charge and without conditions, Archer maintains.
The hotel owner serves cocktails parkside, something Archer is not allowed to do on her leased spot. “My request is one of fairness and equality,” she stated.
Liberty sold a portion of his property to the city in 1980 for $25,000. That land now makes up the Winslow-Holbrook Park dedicated to the first Rockland soldiers to die in World War I. Before that, Liberty used the space for a parking lot.
But five years ago Liberty asked to purchase a portion of the land back and bought a 10-foot strip of land on the east side of the park near his hotel.
After a city survey of the park earlier this year, it was determined that Liberty was using city property pro bono. Now he wants to buy this 4-foot-wide strip for $6,409.
The city council considered Monday night a proposal to seek bids on the 4-foot-wide strip but after about five minutes of debate, voted 3-2 against putting the property up for sale. Councilor Frank Isganitis said the city should consider trying to find a long-term solution, such as a longer lease for both Archer and Liberty to use the parcels.
Councilors Larry Pritchett and Elizabeth Dickerson joined Isganitis in rejecting the proposal.
Last year, Liberty opposed the city leasing the strip to Archer. When he sold the land in 1980, he thought it would be a park, not used by a competing business. When reached on the phone Monday, Liberty had no comment beyond what he stated in his letter.
Stephen Betts can be contacted at email@example.com or @Scoopbetts.