Parking lot lights debated

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Why are the lights still on in a Main Street commercial parking lot that has been ordered closed?

Resident Jay Perruzzi has attended recent meetings of both the Select Board and the Planning Board to ask that question.

The town served parking lot owners John and Martha ‘Marty’ Williams a notice of violation Oct. 28 requiring them to cease and desist use of the lot because there were several aspects of it out of compliance with the plan approved for it in June.

While the notice of violation stated that the Williamses failed to implement the lighting, landscape/buffering and stormwater runoff plans as presented and approved by the Planning Board, there was nothing specifically asking for lights to be turned off.

“We didn’t put it in our notice of violation,” Town Manager Justin VanDongen told the Islander on Tuesday. “If nothing changes at the next planning board meeting … If it doesn’t get corrected, we will issue another notice of violation.”

On Nov. 26, selectmen acted to file court action over the violations, what’s known as a Rule 80K complaint. Under the rule, a court can order violators to pay fines and to stop or correct a violation.

John Williams presented an amended application to the Planning Board at its Dec. 5 meeting in an attempt to bring changes made to the parking lot into compliance.

“He’s requested to alter the lighting plan to match what he has there,” said VanDongen, noting that the original approved plans were for fence-mounted lighting and they are now on poles.

Amendments included trees for buffering placed in different locations than the original plan, locations of fences on the property, location of lights and a rain garden that has yet to be installed. That item had to be moved to a different area of the property.

“Diversion of water was changed because of ledge and electrical lines underground,” engineer Greg Johnston told the Planning Board.

The board found the amended application complete, with Williams recusing himself from the decision. A public hearing on the application is scheduled for the Dec. 19 Planning Board meeting.

When Perruzzi asked members of the Planning Board why the lights were still on, they deferred the question to Code Enforcement Officer John Larson.

He explained that Williams had told VanDongen that the lights were an insurance liability issue. VanDongen confirmed for the Islander he had had a conversation with Williams’ insurance agent.

Perruzzi pointed out he thought the lights as installed were not in compliance with town requirements.

“If I go there at night to test the lights, should I bring the CEO?” he asked the Planning Board.

Board members said yes, Perruzzi should take up the issue with the CEO as it is not in their purview to enforce any code violations.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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