May 27, 2018
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Rockland council mulls height moratorium for new buildings downtown

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — The City Council will consider later this month whether to impose a moratorium on new buildings taller than 50 feet in a section of downtown.

The 180-day moratorium would allow the city’s comprehensive planning commission and the council to have time to consider whether to change ordinances that allow buildings up to 65 feet in the downtown section of Rockland.

The moratorium would affect only the downtown section from Park Street south to Pleasant, as well as Main Street from Park Drive south to Water Street.

The comprehensive planning commission met June 12 and voted 4-0, with one abstention, to recommend the council adopt the moratorium.

The council will discuss the moratorium for the first time at its July 7 meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. A preliminary vote on the moratorium would then be held July 14. A final vote likely would be held in August.

The moratorium comes in the wake of the approval given June 10 by the Rockland Planning Board to build a five-story hotel at the intersection of Main and Pleasant streets. The hotel approved for ADZ Properties LLC will stand 57 feet tall with an elevator shaft reaching 61 feet and solar panels reaching 70 feet. The city ordinance sets a 65-foot limit for occupied space.

The hotel will have 26 suites and is estimated to cost $2.9 million. Developer Cabot Lyman said last month he expects construction to begin in September and work to be completed in June.

The project was opposed by many neighbors, who said the height was out of character with the adjacent residential neighborhood.

Mayor Larry Pritchett said the comprehensive planning commission also recommended postponing an ordinance given preliminary approval last month to limit building heights to 50 feet until the issue is studied during the moratorium period.

“Since the design standards for the downtown zone are already under review, comps thought it made sense to look at height as a part of that broader review and not as a standalone issue,” the mayor said Thursday.

The moratorium would not affect the ADZ hotel because it is an approved project.

The council also will consider whether to give approval to the hotel to have an awning that extends over the city’s sidewalk at its July 14 meeting.

In the wake of planning board approval, member Kyle Swan submitted his resignation on June 22. Swan voiced concerns about the hotel project and abstained when the vote occurred. Swan also voiced concern about the Center for Maine Contemporary Art project, questioning whether it met the downtown design standards.

Swan said in his resignation letter that increased demands in his work and personal life was preventing him from devoting the time necessary to the board post.

Planning board member George Terrien resigned in early April, citing issues that included the art centers vote. Terrien’s position on the five-member board has since been filled.

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