ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland Planning Board gave the go-ahead Tuesday night to a five-story hotel that has met with criticism from neighbors.
Developer Cabot Lyman said he expected construction would begin in September and will be completed in June.
The planners voted 4-0 to approve the project with board member Kyle Swan abstaining.
The action came after developers came in with modifications to the project including the use of bricklike material on the north and west sides of the the hotel. The vote also came after the city attorney said that the city’s ordinance — which requires buildings to be in character with the neighborhood — lacks quantitative standards and may not pass constitutional muster if challenged in court.
The hotel proposed by ADZ Properties LLC — principal owner of which is Lyman of Lyman Morse Boatbuilding in Thomaston — will stand 57 feet high with the elevator shaft reaching 61 feet and solar panels up to 70 feet. The height limit in this downtown section of the city is 65 feet but solar panels are allowed to be 75 feet high.
The five-story building will have 26 suites. The project is estimated to cost $2.9 million.
Some neighbors continue to oppose the proposed hotel, saying the project was out of character with the neighborhood.
Not all were opposed, however.
“I don’t know what is the big fuss. This is not the monstrosity that it is being portrayed,” said Christian Dehlinger, whose home is 3 feet from where the hotel will be built.
Dehlinger said the city needs to generate more revenue to relieve high property taxes.
Dan Bookham, who lives on Limerock Street, said the area where the hotel is proposed is in an already developed, busy area. He pointed out the area has pubs, restaurants and a busy national retail pharmacy.
Amy Files of Pleasant Street, who has been one of the leading opponents to the project, disagreed that Rockland was an urban area.
“Rockland is a small coastal seaside town. It’s important to protect that character,” Files said.
Allan Toubman of Ocean Street said that just because a developer submitted an application, doesn’t mean it is entitled to approval.
“You can’t treat residential neighbors like second class citizens,” Toubman said.
Paula Sutton of Warren, who is the Republican candidate for the Knox County state Senate seat, said she believes the project fits into her vision of Rockland and would expand the community’s tax base.
City Attorney Kevin Beal said the city’s ordinance on being in character with other buildings was too vague to be supported in court if challenged by an applicant. He said standards need quantitative measures that are clear to developers and the board. Board member Warren Bodine said that the matter needs to be addressed by the City Council.
Board member Charles Jordan Jr. said the project will not harm the neighborhood.
“We will look back in four or five years that this was the start of something great for the Pleasant Street neighborhood,” Jordan said.
Planning Board member Kyle Swan questioned the lack of parking but member Abbie Knickelbein pointed out that Rockland’s ordinance for the downtown zone does not require parking. Architect Scott Teas said the developer has dropped plans for valet parking in front of the building. Customers will have to find an available space and then staff can move the vehicle to a lot the company plans to lease from the state west of Mid-Coast Mental Health Center.
Swan also voiced concern about whether hotel guests would complain about the odor from Rock City Coffee Roasters next door. Lyman said he has offered to allow owner Suzanne Ward to connect to a pipe system that would extend up his building. Code Officer John Root said be hoped she would take advantage of that offer to prevent future complaints.