Lot lease expires

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — As of today (Thursday) a 40-space parking lot in the downtown will no longer be held for use by the general public. The town’s lease on the so-called post office lot on the Clark Point Road has expired and was not renewed.

Selectmen on Tuesday agreed to keep discussion open with parking lot owner Ken Korona but took no action on renewing the lease, thereby putting the lot back into private hands and vacating the town’s responsibilities of maintaining the lot.

The town entered into a 20-year lease on the parking lot in 1986 with the previous owner. The lease had an option to extend the term for another 10 years, which, at the time, selectmen voted to do. That 10-year option expires Dec. 15.

Under the terms of the lease, the town pays $1 annually and gives Korona a property tax break of about $1,200. The town also has made improvements to the lot, spending about $50,000 over the years.

Korona has offered to continue to lease the lot to the town but was insisting on a one-year lease. Selectmen were not happy with that condition, saying that they were unwilling to spend money on paving and other upkeep of the lot for such a short-term lease.

“I don’t think a year-to-year lease would work in the town’s best interest,” said Chairman Tom Benson.

Korona was asked why he wanted the annual lease. He responded saying he was uncertain about his future plans for the property and didn’t want to be tied down by a long-term lease.

Pressed by selectmen, Korona admitted he would consider a multi-year lease.

“I would consider a three-year lease, but I don’t think I want to go beyond that,” he said. “I would like to find a solution to this that works for the town.”

But even a three-year lease was not enough to satisfy selectmen. If the town is going to maintain the lot, Dan Norwood said, “I would be thinking more like a 10-year lease.”

Town Manager Don Lagrange opined that selectmen had two choices.

“You should either come to a long-term solution or pull the plug now,” Lagrange said.

Lagrange later suggested a third choice: the town could buy the property from Korona.

Selectmen called for Korona to meet with Lagrange to discuss the matter further. They are expected to meet next week.

As the owner of the parking lot, Korona is required by town ordinance to provide a certain number of parking spaces for the U.S. Post Office and other businesses that rent space in his building. What is unclear is what actions he might take regarding people who park there and conduct business elsewhere in the town. Korona is within his right to have these vehicles towed but said Tuesday that he doesn’t want to become the parking police.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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