SOUTHWEST HARBOR— A plan for serving food and outdoor dining at MDI Lobster, first presented in February, was approved last week by the Planning Board, with a few conditions.
A lawyer for neighbors of the property on Clark Point Road spoke during the public hearing that took place prior to the board’s review of the business’s application. Co-owners Nicholas Sayre and Joe Debeck attended the meeting; Sayre was in person and Debeck via Zoom.
Concerns regarding noise, lighting, parking and the number of occupants allowed at the establishment were aired during the hearing. Neighbors and the business owners agreed that past issues regarding buffering on the property had been worked out among them prior to the meeting.
“The neighbors don’t want more cars there than need to be there,” said attorney Andrew Hamilton, who represents a group of neighbors called Share the Clark Point Waterfront.
He then listed conditions for the Planning Board to consider when approving the application. They included no parking allowed in right of way and buffer area, approval of the existing toilet building, downshielding on lights around the lot, patrons of business not going on neighbor’s property, location of the toilet building, addressing odors and smoking with closed garbage cans, directing grease and cooking odors with fans and reducing the seating capacity.
While all agreed the business, which has been serving food since the July 4th weekend and was issued a cease and desist the following week, has been busy this summer, there are still details that need to be worked out.
“We’ve had a restaurant customer get right up on my dock,” said neighbor John Carroll via Zoom. “I’ve also had a boater come tie up on my dock. I’m really concerned about liability.”
Sayre said he was unaware of those two things happening.
“I’d like this project to fit in with the neighborhood,” Carroll added.
To stress that a seating capacity of 135 people is too much for the space, Hamilton pointed out that Carroll had tracked parking at the restaurant on a few busy days during the season.
“We’ve had summer days where you have maxed out that space with 90,” said Hamilton, noting there are 30 parking spaces for 135 seats on the plan. “It’s too much for that site.”
Planning Board Chairman Eric Davis pointed out that the business owners were hurting their business by not enforcing or laying out parking spaces on the lot to create efficient use of the space.
“They’re self-regulating through chaos,” he said.
One neighbor with a right of way on the business’s property said cars had been parked in it during business hours.
“Have you guys been blocked trying to get into your property?” Sayre asked them. “The right of way is clear. I think you guys need to pay for a surveyor to see where your right of way ends.”
Other items debated were hours of operation – 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. were listed on the application – and seating over the water.
Sayre agreed to several of the conditions listed by Hamilton but said he wouldn’t budge on hours or seating over the water.
“That might work this year,” said Sayre about the hours of operation that were submitted on the application in February. “It’s not going to work next year or the year after.”
As for seating over the water, both Hamilton and Planning Board Vice Chairman Ben ‘Lee’ Worcester said it wasn’t allowed by the state.
Members of the Planning Board voted in favor of the proposed number of seats and parking at the business.
“You guys are giving them a right to put 135 seats on that property,” said Hamilton, pointing out the need for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance with parking. “You’re doing it backwards. You’re headed toward an appeal.”
Hamilton also insisted the Planning Board have a stormwater management plan for the site, which was not required with the application. When Worcester made a motion to require a stormwater management plan, it was voted down with two members in favor and four against.
“Neither side is going to get exactly what they want,” pointed out Planning Board member John Williams, noting the discussion of waterfront businesses cohabitating with residents and other businesses is going on up and down the coast of Maine. “We all want to take away something we can live with.”