The parking lot owned by Ken Corona in downtown Southwest Harbor SCREEN GRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS

Town declines lot owner’s offers

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — It’s unclear what the next steps will be in the ongoing saga of a downtown parking lot after two offers provided by the lot’s owner were turned down by the Board of Selectmen at its Tuesday night meeting.

Ken Korona owns the building that houses the post office and other businesses, and the adjacent parking lot. Until recently, the lot had been leased to the town for public use.

The first offer, a lease of the property, was rejected by the board in a 5-0 vote. The lease payment would have been $18,000 per year, plus an estimated $12,000 per year in needed maintenance.

Korona had also offered to sell the property to the town, in a proposal presented to the town manager at the end of June. The asking price was not disclosed, but previous offers have ranged from $500,000 to $800,000.

There are 38 spaces within the paved area of the lot, eight of which are required for patrons and employees of the post office and other businesses in the building. There are 12 more spaces within the central dirt area, according to new Selectman Kristin Hutchins.

A motion made by Hutchins to pursue the purchase of the lot died for lack of support.

There was no other discussion on the matter once these decisions were made.

“In my opinion we shouldn’t be pursuing this any further,” said Selectman George Jellison. “I think we are rushing to a conclusion here because we’re right in our parking crunch. In five or six weeks our parking crunch won’t be there.”

A yearlong lease in which the town paid $1 per year for the lot and provided a tax abatement for Korona expired on June 30. Maintenance of the lot by the town was also included in that lease agreement. It was a continuance of a 10-year lease agreement put in place in 2007, two years after Korona purchased the lot.

Town Manager Justin VanDongen responded to multiple concerns voiced by members of the public who were crowded into the meeting room. If the selectmen decided to pursue a purchase, he assured the group, the town’s voters would have to approve it.

Korona recently placed five large boulders in several parking spaces as a protest to unregulated public use of the lot. One resident who spoke at the meeting called that a bullying tactic.

The boulders were placed behind McEachern & Hutchins. One of them blocked access to a handicapped parking spot.

VanDongen said he had received several calls about loss of the space. Selectman Ryan Donahue asked VanDongen to work with Police Chief Alan Brown to designate another handicap parking space within the downtown area.

“We need to look at parking and traffic in town on the whole,” said Selectman Lydia Goetze. “This is a clear illustration of why it’s important to think ahead.”

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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