ROCKLAND, Maine — The City Council will vote next Monday night on whether to allow a downtown restaurant to continue to use a 12-foot strip of a city square named after two World War I veterans.
The council heard from both sides Monday evening at City Hall on whether the Brass Compass should be able to use the strip adjacent to Winslow-Holbrook Square at the intersection of Park Drive and Main Street. No vote was taken but councilors agreed to place the order for the continued use on its April 9 agenda.
The Brass Compass has used a strip of city property for nine years. Last year, the amount of land was widened to 12 feet. The restaurant is able to fit 10 tables on the property and pays the city $25 per table annually for use from May 1 through Oct. 1.
Leslie Spiers, owner of the Myrtle Street Tavern, urged councilors to stop allowing the use of the property. A petition signed by nearly 30 downtown business owners expressed opposition to the Brass Compass’ use of the square.
“If you don’t have property to have outdoor seating, you don’t have outdoor seating,” Spiers said.
The tavern owner said the city was opening a can of worms allowing the commercial use of public property.
Jill Goodridge of Park Street Grille, located across the street from the square, said the space should be used only to honor those who served in World War I.
Goodridge said if the city allows commercial use of the square, it should be opened to bids where other businesses could make use of it.
Roberta Best, sister of the late Lt. Albert Holbrook, urged the council to keep the square open as a quiet place for people to rest on a busy Main Street. Her daughter Kathryn Gaye Best voiced support for erecting a larger memorial at the square.
A paving block for Winslow and Holbrook is located in the middle of the square. The paving block had been in the street but was moved more than 30 years ago to the square and the square was formally named for the pair in the summer of 2009.
Holbrook and Pvt. Arthur Winslow were Rockland residents who died in World War I.
Lynn Archer, owner of the Brass Compass, defended her use of the land.
She noted that she owns a strip of land varying in width from 1 to 4 feet on that side of the restaurant. She noted the square was not used and was unsightly when she opened her restaurant and that she has kept it clean in the 10 years she has operated the restaurant.
Archer said she was insulted by criticism that she was not honoring veterans by using a small width of the square. She noted a local American Legion post is named after her grandparents.
Archer presented the council with a petition signed by about 300 people urging councilors to allow her to continue to use the property. She noted she employs 50 workers.
Councilors made no comments at the meeting about the request.