John Williams explains landscaping plans for the parking lot at 376 Main Street at a Planning Board hearing held at the fire station last week. ISLANDER PHOTO BY SARAH HINCKLEY

Parking lot plan approved

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The Planning Board approved a change-of-use application for the lot at 376 Main Street to become a commercial marking lot, during a packed meeting at the fire station June 20. Abutters expressed concern about drainage and the fact that vehicles had been parking in the lot prior to the application being approved.

Property owners John and Marty Williams, who own Drydock Inn and Café also on Main Street, are applying for a change of use with the town from residential to commercial. Their plan for the 1.02-acre property is a 90-space commercial parking lot, which requires an approval of the application for change of use in what is a mixed use zone. In the lot there will be spaces for cars/trucks, tour buses and recreational vehicles (RVs).

“Everything is approved to start operating as a parking lot,” John Williams told the Islander Wednesday. “We’re going to have a kiosk [for customers to pay for parking]. We’re looking to get the kiosk in approximately next week.” Customers at the Williams’ businesses will be able to park for free.

Members of the public, Board of Selectmen and Planning Board packed the meeting room at the fire station for the June 20 meeting. The board was in the second phase of reviewing the application for change of use.

A member of the Planning Board, Williams recused himself from the board and participated in the discussion from the floor as the applicant. The application was approved with a vote of 5-0-1 with Williams abstaining and Ken Salvatore absent from the meeting.

Permits for work on the property were issued previously by former code enforcement officer Don Lagrange. Three buildings on the property have been removed since the Williams’ purchased it three and a half years ago. One was a house built around 1886, another was Ralph Stanley’s original boat house, according to Williams, and the last was a mobile home.

Demolition permits allow for additional fill when issued, the town officials said. At the meeting, one neighbor said there seemed to have been at least three times the amount the permit allowed brought into the site.

Engineer Greg Johnston, who has been hired by the Williamses, gave a presentation for about landscaping methods to address erosion.

“We were retained by the owners a little bit late to the game,” Johnson said to the Planning Board. “I’ve suggested a bunch of things that aren’t there yet.”

Plans presented by Johnston and Williams during the meeting included planting trees and installing a fence along the property line to buffer noise and light pollution for neighbors.

One neighbor cited the town’s land use ordinance (LUO) and said state law requires erosion control to be in place before the lot can be used for parking.

“We already do have parking there,” said Anne Wolak who is an abutter to the property. “Erosion measures are not in place.”

Planning Board Chairman Eric Davis explained that it was a decision of the code enforcement officer if the property was in violation.

“Isn’t the CEO next to you?” Wolak asked Davis at the meeting. Lagrange attended the meeting, but he had submitted a letter of resignation to the town the day before (see related story).

Wolak also said buffering measures on the property needed to be in place before the lot could be used, according to the town’s LUO.

“Until there’s a solid fence up there won’t be any parking,” Williams said at the meeting. He told the Planning Board he has a company contracted to install the fence.

The board approved the application contingent upon the fence being installed within a reasonable amount of time. At the request of Gretchen Strong, who owns Penury Hall Bed and Breakfast next door to the lot, Williams agreed not to allow parking along the side of the lot that faces her business.

On Wednesday, Williams told the Islander that Lagrange had issued him a waiver to allow for parking immediately.

“Right now, anyone who wants to use it to park in can,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a big help for businesses in town … I think this parking issue in Bar Harbor is going to push some people over here. We’ve got to be ready for it.”

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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