ROCKLAND, Maine — A proposed five-story downtown hotel was confronted with a wall of opposition Tuesday night as more than 100 people turned out, nearly all in opposition.
Rockland City Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson asked the planning board to hold off on a vote on the hotel to give the City Council time to consider amending the community’s zoning laws to lower the maximum height of buildings to 50 feet in that area.
Dickerson said in 2010, there had been an effort on the council to lower the 65-foot height limit but it failed. The councilor said the huge turnout at the meeting should convince the planners that the review should be put on hold.
After three hours of testimony at the public hearing, 23 of 25 speakers voiced opposition to the hotel because of its height and the impact it would have on the nearby residential neighborhood. Erik Laustsen, planning board chairman, said after the hearing that the planning board would not be voting on the project this evening.
Laustsen said after the hearing that the board must act on the application under the zoning laws and not ones that might be adopted. The board could vote June 10, he said.
Suzanne Ward, owner of Rockland City Coffee Roasters, which is located next to the proposed hotel site, said she believes the building is too large.
But Ward said her greatest concern was that guests at the hotel would complain about the smell of the coffee roasting at the shop she has operated since 1999. She pointed out that in 2008, the city threatened to close her business because of odor complaints from a neighbor on the other side. Ward said she was concerned that history would repeat itself if the hotel was built.
ADZ Properties LLC — whose principal owner is Cabot Lyman of Lyman Morse Boatbuilding in Thomaston — has proposed a 57-foot, five-story building with 26 suites. The project is estimated to cost $2.9 million.
Planning board member Warren Bodine said he was concerned about the facade facing the north side of the building, which would greet visitors arriving to the downtown from Route 1 south.
“It seems to say, ‘hello I’m a mass,’” Bodine said.
Teagan Atwell said the project was crossing the line.
“Why is this needed? Only to get someone rich?” Atwell asked.
Ben Levine said the intersection of Main and Pleasant streets is the gateway to the neighborhood and voiced concern about the size of the project.
Peter Proeller said he was worried that if this project succeeds, other developers will look to buy homes in the area and propose similar projects.
The 250 Main St. site is located in the downtown commercial zone that extends as far west as Union Street.
Karen Lannon, who owns a house two lots away from the hotel site, referred to the project as the “Great Wall of Rockland.” She said that her property would block the harbor view for anyone living at her property.
Valli Geiger, the chairwoman of the comprehensive planning committee, said the hotel was completely out of scale for the neighborhood.
Parking was one issue of concern raised by planning board members. There will be one space in front of the hotel on the Main Street side and two spaces on the Pleasant Street side for arriving and departing guests.
Jesse Henry of Migus Hotel Group said he does not foresee a problem with those number of spaces with a hotel that has valet parking. He said this works in cities that are much larger than Rockland.
He said the Rockland project was more like a bed and breakfast. Lyman said there was sufficient parking in the neighborhood and people could find spaces.
City ordinances do not require parking spaces for businesses in the downtown zone.
The project calls for a 30-space gravel off-site parking lot adjacent to the parking lot of Midcoast Mental Health Center. The entrance to the parking lot would be on Park Street near Eastern Tire.
Architect Scott Teas said the hotel’s impact on traffic would be negligible.
Resident Sandra Schramm and others disagreed and called for a traffic study to be required from the developer.
Maurice Colton III pointed out that the city needs to look forward. He pointed out that the city logo — a beehive that states “God gives a reward to industry” — means that Rockland wants to attract businesses. He said there were people who thought the world was going to end when MBNA built on the waterfront, but Rockland has prospered.
John Stein, who lives on Pleasant Street and works at Lyman Morse, asked residents to give Lyman a chance to show what a quality project he would create. Stein said the house torn down earlier this month at 49 Pleasant St. was simply to make the neighborhood look better and will not be used for parking.
Architect Teas said the hotel will have an art theme to fit into Rockland’s growing recognition as an arts destination. Instead of corridors, people getting off the elevator will be greeted by a gallery on each floor. There will be seven suites on both the second and third floors and six suites on the fourth and fifth floors.
Lyman said he wanted to be part of Rockland’s growth. After the hearing, he said he believes a lot of people support the project and the opposition Tuesday night was an orchestrated effort.
ADZ had received approval in October 2010 for a mixed retail, office and residential complex on the lot. The foundation was constructed in October 2011, but then the developer decided to pursue a hotel instead.
This is the second hotel plan being put forward in Rockland. A $6.5 million, 65-suite upscale hotel is being planned by Rockland Harbor Park LLC on waterfront property near Harbor Park. Harbor Park has not yet submitted a formal application for the project but held a pre-application meeting earlier this year.