Southwest Harbor officials are considering building a parking lot on this property across from the town dock in Manset. FILE PHOTO

Parking, water access get preliminary nod

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Although the price is steep, spending $1 million to buy property across from the Manset Pier and convert it into a parking lot will benefit the town in the long run, Town Manager Don Lagrange told selectmen Tuesday.

Officials have been discussing the purchase of the Knote property on the Shore Road. On Tuesday, selectmen voted 5-0 to move toward that goal by authorizing a summary appraisal of the property.

“The town has missed opportunities for shore access in the past,” chairman Dan Norwood noted before the vote. “If the board is interested, this is a reasonable first step, a summary appraisal.”

Lagrange proposed a plan that he said would generate more than enough revenue to pay for buying the land and constructing the lot. That plan includes paid parking and increasing the number of moorings in the harbor.

In making a case for purchasing the property, which is listed at $770,000, Lagrange said the project would “supplement recreational opportunities at the Manset dock,” for both residents and visitors. This, in turn, will benefit businesses by bringing more people to Southwest Harbor, Lagrange said.

Lagrange said he has discussed his proposal with Misha Mytar of Maine Coast Heritage Trust. The land conservation organization is interested in partnering with the town on the project. Mytar is to bring the idea to the trust’s board of directors next week, Lagrange said.

“I found a pretty good ally in Maine Coast Heritage Trust,” Lagrange told selectmen. One of the goals of the trust is to improve public access to the ocean, he added.

As proposed by Lagrange, the town would take out a $950,000 30-year bond to pay for the project. Payments on the bond would amount to about $45,000 a year. He estimates there would be nearly $30,000 in additional costs, which include maintenance, loss of taxable revenue and $10,000 in promotional expenses. The latter, Lagrange said, is needed to generate traffic for the parking lot.

The parking lot would have 60 regular parking spaces, nine annually rented spaces and 14 spaces for vehicles and trailers. No attendants would be needed; users would pay with a credit card at a computerized gate. Lagrange projects these parking spaces would generate $83,400 annually.

There is the potential for 70 to 80 new moorings in the harbor, but taking advantage of that potential revenue source now is hindered by a lack of parking. Purchasing the Knote property would allow for this expansion, Lagrange said.

Lagrange estimates that revenue from the additional moorings plus an increase in fees for existing moorings would add another $20,500 to the town’s coffers.

Selectman Lydia Goetze said she didn’t think it feasible to add that many additional moorings in the short term. Lagrange agreed, but argued that expenses would be covered even without a sizeable increase in the number of moorings.

Harbormaster Adam Thurston said the harbor committee agrees that the Knote property “would be a good asset to the harbor and the town.”

Ryan Donahue, chairman of the planning board, also was at the meeting. He encouraged selectmen to proceed, saying it dovetails with the aims of the town’s comprehensive plan.

“The Manset ramp happens to have the best access of all the town ramps,” Donahue said. “I think if you’re going to spend money, this is the best place.”

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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