Parking pursued for Pacific Hall

TREMONT — Before approving a town meeting warrant article to accept the donation of a building on Tremont Road, selectmen want to see if there is a way to get more parking near or on the property. 

“If we take it over, we want to be able to use it,” board chairman Jamie Thurlow said at the Jan. 21 meeting about the property at 737 Tremont Road. “It seems like there’s a lot of worry about parking … If we’re going to use it, we want to be able to do it correctly.” 

Last summer, Morgan Churchman, who owns the property at 737 Tremont Road, known to many as Pacific Hall and the former Methodist Church, offered to donate the building to the town for free. It is currently the temporary home of the Bass Harbor Memorial Library while that building is undergoing a renovation and expansion. 

When the offer was first presented to the board of selectmen, they asked Town Manager Chris Saunders to research what the annual cost of maintaining the building would be. Using utility bills from fiscal years ’18 and ’19, Saunders estimated the annual expenses for the building around $10,500. An addition $2,000 was included in the first-year cost of the building for the installation of security cameras. 

According to Saunders, the annual tax bill for the building in 2019 was $2,496, an amount that would come off the town’s books in the event voters accept the donation. When Churchman made the offer to selectmen, he noted if the town declined the offer, the building would go to a nonprofit either way. 

“Regardless, we’re going to lose the property taxes on that no matter what,” said Selectman McKenzie Jewett.  

“Is there a plan to rent it or just let people use it,” asked Mark Good, a resident and member of the town’s Planning Board, at the meeting.  

Over the last few years the building has been used for private parties and community events.  

While the library has been in the space, adequate parking has become a more pressing issue. Typically, there is a good turnout for many of the library’s public events but the parking lot only has room for about eight cars strategically parked.  

Neighboring property owner George Carter has allowed visitors to the building to park on his property at George Carter Construction, two parcels away.  

There is no sidewalk in that area of town for people to safely walk off the road at all times of day.  

According to selectmen, Churchman owns property across the street from the building. Selectman Mike Mansolilli said if that were to be a part of the property, a cross walk would need to be installed.  

Fire Chief Keith Higgins expressed concern about using the former church as a public building without a review by the state fire marshal’s office. Before the Bass Harbor Memorial Library moved into the space, the town’s planning board reviewed and approved plans for its use. According to Saunders, as part of that process, code enforcement officer John Larson did review the building to see what would be needed for fire marshal approval. 

“There may be a great deal of expenses to turn it into a public building,” said Higgins, referring to what would be required by the fire marshal’s office. “I guarantee they’ll probably come down on you very hard. Whether the state triggers it or not, it’s the town’s obligation to take care of it.” 

Selectmen then voted separately to request the town manager contact the state fire marshal’s office and for him to contact Churchman and abutting property owners about land for parking. Both motions were passed unanimously.  

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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