Parking lot draws cease and desist

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Main Street business owners John and Martha “Marty” Williams have been asked to stop using the parking lot they constructed earlier this year until the project is completed as approved by the Planning Board, per a notice of violation issued at the end of October.

At their Tuesday night meeting, the Board of Selectmen unanimously authorized the town to take legal action against the couple if the violations were not corrected by Nov. 29, as stated in the notice.

John Williams, a member of the town’s Planning Board since 2018, is scheduled to go before that board on Nov. 21 to discuss changes in the project.

“I find it remarkable as a member of the Planning Board you weren’t aware you need to comply,” Lydia Goetze, who chairs the Board of Selectmen, said at the meeting.

“I have buildings,” said Williams in response. “I’ve never done a parking lot.”

Reconstruction of the lot at 376 Main Street has been somewhat contentious from the start. An application for the project was first reviewed by the Planning Board in May with a request from the owners for a change in use of the property from residential to commercial.

Williams recused himself from all the board’s deliberations regarding the project.

On June 20, the board further reviewed and approved plans for the parking lot project. At that meeting engineer Greg Johnston presented plans for stormwater management on the property to meet requirements. Several neighbors were in attendance and voiced concerns about buffers, draining and lighting and the fact the lot was already in use.

According to Williams, he had a conversation with then-Code Enforcement Officer Don Lagrange prior to that meeting, requesting a waiver on the project due to delays with a hired contractor and securing needed supplies.

Town officials accepted Lagrange’s resignation following the June 20 meeting.

“I have been operating under the assumption that I have a waiver,” Williams said in an interview on Wednesday. The waiver “allows me to use the parking lot while I’m still doing construction.”

Williams also told the Islander the waiver did not have to be written, it could be verbal.

“I have proven the existence of our waiver as I have stated all along,” Williams wrote to Code Enforcement Officer John Larson in response to the violation notice.

When asked if waivers were common with projects before the Planning Board, Williams responded, “I haven’t seen any waivers as a Planning Board member.”

At their meeting, selectmen discussed the violations and process by which plans go before the Planning Board.

Selectman Ryan Donahue, who previously served on the Planning Board, pointed out to Williams that any variation in the parking lot from approved plans must go to the Planning Board before being implemented.

Selectmen also asked if the lot was currently being used. Williams told them it was closed to the general public but is being used by guests of the inn. According to Williams, the inn is open year round.

In the notice of violation, Larson ordered a cease and desist of any further use of the parking lot until the approved plans are implemented, which includes closing the entrance of the lot.

The letter also states, unless the violations are correct by Nov. 29, the matter will be turned over to municipal officers to commence with legal action in a Maine court.

“I feel like you’re jumping the gun,” said Williams at the meeting.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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