Neighbors still not happy with parking lot

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Despite complaints from neighbors that aspects of lighting, buffering and stormwater management were not yet sufficient, the amended plan for a Main Street commercial parking lot were approved by the Planning Board last week. But the board added a requirement that the lot remain closed until it meets all requirements.

John and Martha ‘Marty’ Williams presented modifications to a previously approved plan for the 3-acre parking lot at the Dec. 5 Planning Board meeting.

At that meeting, the board decided the amended application was complete.

Last week, the Planning Board held a public hearing on the amendments before agreeing the aspects of the application were in compliance with the town’s land use ordinance.

It was standing room only in the meeting room of the town office for the hearing. Lot owner John Williams, who is also a member of the Planning Board, recused himself for the hearing and decision making process.

Those included light shields properly angled and covering all sides, a fence for buffering that won’t be installed until spring and a deed granting right of way onto 3 Rod Road from the lot.

Once the public hearing began, Williams handed the lighting discussion over to electrician Stephen Stanley who he has hired to do the work in the lot. Stanley referred to a third party report done by Lanpher Associates, Inc. whose representative spent time at the lot and said it met requirements.

Lanpher’s report said the shielding would need to be adjusted to meet the town’s requirements, which Stanley said he had already done.

Neighbor Joel Wolak presented a photo to the Planning Board looking out one of his windows of his house directly at a light shielded on three sides.

“That will kill you,” he said to board member Chris Blain as he handed him the photo. “I get zero benefit from that shield.”

“These are LEDs they’re not incandescent,” said Perruzzi. “You’re seeing direct light. It’s harsh light that can give you a headache if you look at it for a long time.”

Once Stanley and Williams said the shields on order would provide four-sided shielding for the lights, neighbors seemed a bit more at ease, but not completely assured.

“You’d have to meet the foot candle the town has,” said Planning Board Chair Eric Davis. Then he turned to the neighbors and said, “We’re just saying what he needs to do to meet the standard. We’re not prescribing how he gets there.”

Changes to the stormwater management plan were needed, Johnston said, because installation of the kiosk near the Main St. entrance changed the grade and flow of water away from a planned rain garden.

“We’re proposing a speed bump diversion to direct water to the grass area,” said Johnston, but the board decided the speed bump was not necessary.

He and neighbors agreed that problems with draining in that area were largely due to work done by the state along that area of Main Street, which is also Route 102.

When the discussion moved on to buffering, neighbors referred to the evergreen shrubs Williams had installed as “Charlie Brown trees.”

“Those trees are not going to make full growth, under deciduous trees,” said neighbor Bob Gross. “There’s a serious question of whether they’re going to buffer anything for at least seven years.”

Neighbor Jennifer Perruzzi asked if there could be a fence installed in certain areas.

Some fence has already been installed, including one post that crosses onto a neighbor’s property. Williams told the planning board he has a verbal agreement from that property owner that the post location is okay. The planning board members asked for a written letter from the property owner citing his approval.

Jennifer Perruzzi also asked if the two entrances onto 3 Rod Road from the property were going to be used.

“Nobody’s really laid claim to the road,” said John Williams “We don’t have a deeded right of way because it’s been used for 30 years.”

According to Williams, after 25 years, an unused road or driveway automatically becomes a right of way.

“I personally don’t think we can approve a plan with part of it on someone else’s property,” said board member Ben ‘Lee’ Worcester. “You may or may not have the right to use 3 Rod Road … I’ll go under the assumption that you don’t.”

The Planning Board unanimously approved the lighting plan as presented as well as the stormwater plan. They also unanimously approved the buffering alterations to the plan.

“It’s abutting eight residential properties,” said Jay Perruzzi. “It would have been nice to have this all in place.”

Following the parking lot discussion was a modification to original approval for Next Level Sports Lounge located at 387 Main Street owned by Renee Miller and Jose Feliciano Jr. regarding the number of parking spaces they need to open their business. The couple is planning to open the business at the start of 2020, contingent upon having enough parking spaces.

They included Williamses’ parking lot as spaces their customers could use, with permission from Williamses before the meeting. It wasn’t until after the planning board voted unanimously to approve Next Level Sports Lounge’s modifications and had adjourned the meeting that someone pointed out that the lot would not be open for use until it becomes compliant. That may not be until the spring with impending construction.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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