June 19, 2018
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Eating in Rockland town square: A pleasant experience or an insult to veterans?

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — Both sides are gearing up for another battle over whether the city should allow a local restaurant to use a strip of a town square that is named after two Rockland men who died in World War I.

This time, the American Legion and the Rockland Parks Commission have entered the debate.

At the center of the issue is the downtown square at the intersection of Main Street and Park Drive. The square contains a marker memorializing the two Rockland residents who died in World War I — Lt. Albert Holbrook and Pvt. Arthur Winslow.

Six or seven years ago, the owner of Brass Compass, a Main Street restaurant located adjacent to the square, asked to set up tables and chairs outside her restaurant. The City Council earlier had agreed to allow restaurants on Main Street to have tables and chairs outside during business hours in the summer.

Since then, however, Holbrook’s niece Katherine Gaye Best has argued against the city allowing a section of the square to be used for commercial purposes. Best’s 92-year-old mother, Roberta Best, Holbrook’s sister, supports the placement of a more substantial monument at the square.

A drawing of a proposed monument also was submitted to the council.

Best is renewing her opposition to the lease this year and presented the city Wednesday with a petition signed by nearly 30 downtown business members and other Rockland residents.

Best stated that the restaurant’s use of the park “is an insult to the other businesses in town and to the memory of all veterans. This park is much more valuable than that and for a variety of reasons.”

The city grants the Brass Compass the right to place 10 tables and chairs along a 12-foot strip adjacent to the restaurant. The city charges $25 per table, with the tables only allowed May 1 through Oct. 1, according to City Clerk Stuart Sylvester.

Lynn Archer, owner of the Brass Compass, said the use of the narrow strip does nothing to take away from the square but instead makes it more appealing. She said before she opened the Brass Compass 10 years ago, the park was not maintained and was filled with litter. She said she cleans the square.

“This is enjoyed by thousands of people in the summer,” Archer said, including people with dogs or wheelchairs who enjoy eating outside.

Mayor Brian Harden said he has mixed feelings about the city allowing the use of the property. Harden has supported the measure in past years.

“I like seeing people outside eating,” Harden said, noting it adds a vitality to the city.

He said he was concerned about the use of public property by a private business.

The City Council will discuss the matter at its meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

Carol Maines, chairwoman of the parks commission, said the group is discussing the matter but has yet to take a stand.

Michael Phillips, the second vice commander of the Holbrook-Merritt-Winslow American Legion Post in Rockland, wrote a letter to the council urging it to stop the use of the land by a private enterprise.

Archer said that in addition to making the square more attractive, her use of the property creates jobs and that should be considered during this economic downturn.

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