A new parking lot at 376 Main Street in Southwest Harbor has been closed since October. FILE PHOTO

Parking lot owner agrees to install gate

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Main Street parking lot owner John Williams has agreed to install a fence with a gate across one entrance at 3 Rod Road and keep the other two access points open, although neighbors debated his legal right to do so.

At another standing room only Planning Board meeting Thursday, Jan. 2, neighbors of the new parking lot located at 376 Main Street gathered to hear what further amendments there would be to a plan approved in June for the project.

Since October, the lot has been closed to public use after owners John and Martha “Marty” Williams were issued a cease and desist order by the town’s code enforcement officer. In the notice of violation, the cease and desist was to remain in place until the lot was completed as approved by the Planning Board.

John Williams, who is a member of the board, 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. Williams has recused himself from the Planning Board for each discussion and decision regarding the lot.

A public hearing took place at the Dec. 19 Planning Board meeting to allow for public comment on changes made to the lighting, buffering and stormwater management plan in the parking lot. John Williams had electrician Stephen Stanley present changes to the lighting, which includes shields to reduce the effect on neighboring properties. Engineer Greg Johnston updated the board and public on the stormwater management aspects of the plan and Williams spoke about buffering. Changes to lighting and stormwater management were approved at that meeting.

At that same meeting, there was debate about the Williams’ right to use the three entrances to the property from 3 Rod Road. That debate continued during the Jan. 2 meeting until Code Enforcement Officer John Larson cited case law that “it is not appropriate for a local official to attempt to resolve a title problem as part of a decision to grant or deny approval if the applicant has submitted reasonable evidence of ownership or boundary location.”

Following the Jan. 2 meeting, Marty Williams provided the Islander with a notarized copy of the couple’s deed to the right of way with abutting property owners’ signatures.

An amended parking lot buffering plan went before a four-member Planning Board at the Jan. 2 meeting with changes being written in until just before the vote to approve it. Planning Board members Ben “Lee” Worcester and Ken Salvatore were absent from the meeting.

“On the original plan there was nothing required on 3 Rod Road,” Williams said at the meeting.

“I don’t believe that is true,” Planning Board Chair Eric Davis said in response. “I swear there was vegetative buffering.”

Williams has planted evergreen trees along the south side of the lot that runs along 3 Rod Road. They are required to be three to five feet to comply with ordinance requirements. A member of the board referred to them as “sticks” at the early December meeting.

In the amended plan, Williams proposed putting 24 feet of fence as a buffer along the edge of the lot next to 3 Rod Road beginning from Main Street. Originally that fence was three feet tall and solid through the first entrance onto 3 Rod Road. After debate and a suggestion from Johnston, Williams agreed to put a gate across the entrance instead of a solid fence and raise it to four feet to buffer a neighboring house.

Davis made a motion, “the applicant has suggested he’s going to add fencing along from the main road up to the first opening that becomes a gate, that’s gated off, and the four-foot fence continues up to 24 feet. Then, add two rows, eight foot on center, of trees in the vegetated areas from there up to the upper lot.”

The remaining four members of the board voted in favor of the motion. The other two entrances from 3 Rod Road into the parking lot will remain open.

“I’ll plan on keeping that gate closed,” said Williams. “Except for at least once a year I’ve got to drive through it so I can maintain it.”

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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