The Southwest Harbor parking lot has been under review for a long time. ISLANDER PHOTO BY SARAH HINCKLEY

Board asks for one plan

SOUTHWEST HARBORA single plan with a clear design of buffering around the parking lot at 376 Main Street was requested by the Planning Board at their meeting last Thursday. 

There have been several appeals filed against decisions by the board regarding the parking lot owned by John and Martha ‘Marty’ Williams. In 2019, the couple went before the board to request a change in use to the property from residential to commercial.  

After much confusion about why the town’s Board of Appeals remanded a decision regarding the use of 3 Rod Road and buffering back to the Planning Board, they voted to table their decision until a clearer plan of the lot is presented.  

“The appeals board referenced a section in the ordinance – private roads being used for commercial purposes,” said Code Enforcement Officer John Larson during the meeting. “The private road doesn’t meet the road width standards for commercial purposes.” 

There were several plans before the Planning Board for the parking lot, each with varying degrees of buffering. 

“What I’m looking at looks like exactly what we approved,” said board chair Eric Davis. “It just seems like we’re proposing exactly what we proposed.” 

One of the appellants, Jenny Perruzzi, attempted to clarify why the issue was back before the Planning Board. 

“Any activity on 3 Rod Road qualifies as commercial use,” she said. “There were so many plans and they needed to get the current plan… The applicant was to submit a new plan for level three buffering for the entire property.” 

Town Manager Justin VanDongen reiterated Perruzzi’s point. 

“The plan should be a single plan that this town can accept,” he said. “There should be a single plan that is not rejected by the appeals board.” One Planning Board member asked if it had to be on one piece of paper. 

“I think that would be incredibly helpful,” said board member Ben ‘Lee’ Worcester.  

Williams explained that if he were to put a six-foot fence around the entire property it would violate an aspect of the land use ordinance.  

“If I put a six-foot fence in, they can’t see oncoming traffic,” he said. “It’s a safety issue… We are grandfathered in the use of 3 Rod Road.” 

Worcester then questioned whether the board could ask the Maine Municipal Association for a determination of use for 3 Rod Road.  

“If 3 Rod Road is under 26 feet width, it’s a residential, private road,” he said referring to the land use ordinance. “If I’m reading it correctly, he may have the right to use it if he’s using it residentially. If he’s using it commercially, then he does not.” 

Williams cited a different section of the land use ordinance regarding parking areas.  

“If I put a six foot fence in, I’m in violation of the land use ordinance,” he explained. “It does not differentiate whether you’re residential or commercial.” 

“If you’re not allowed to have an entrance or exit, you can’t use it,” explained Worcester, referencing 3 Rod Road being private. “It means the commercial use you’re asking for, you can’t use those entrances under any circumstances.” 

As multiple people were trying to weigh in at 9:45 p.m., VanDongen muted the entire group on Zoom, asking that people wait to be recognized by the chair of the board before speaking. Several hiccups resulted from the technological move, which left several members unable to unmute their microphones. Another member lost connection and nearly ended the meeting prematurely, but was able to rejoin. Once all members were back in the meeting, the board voted to table the issue until a complete, one-page plan could be presented. 

“I am just totally confused over 3 Rod Road,” said Worcester before the meeting ended. “If we read our ordinance as it is, the gates and everything shouldn’t be there.” 

Also on the board’s agenda was a public hearing for the property at 55 Main Street where Acadia Vendors has set up, and a Board of Appeals decision to remand the plan for the 176 Main Street parking lot back for further review. 


Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.
One comment
  1. Anny Seavey

    June 22, 2020 at 6:09 am

    Remember when the town wanted to buy this property and put up a parking lot ! Hummm I wonder if we would be going through all of this nonsense if that had happened or if ordinances would have just been changed to comply ?
    It is strange that a property probably zoned for commercial use and a deed that says you have access to the road and now thats not true hummm???


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