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

Town makes property offer

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The quest to increase parking at the Manset Town Dock cleared another hurdle Tuesday when selectmen voted to make an offer on the Knote property on the Shore Road.

If the property owners agree to the town’s offer, the purchase would need voter approval at the November elections.

Town officials long have been looking to expand parking at the busy dock, which serves both fishermen and recreational boaters. Parking particularly is in demand during this time of year.

“I’m at capacity every day,” Harbormaster Adam Thurston told selectmen at their meeting Tuesday.

As a result, vehicles have been parking along the Shore Road, making it difficult for through-traffic to negotiate the narrow road.

The town now has two parking areas at the dock. In one, a town-owned lot, there are about 15 parking spaces. Adjacent to that is the Hook lot, which the town leases from the Hook family for $8,000 a year. That lot probably can accommodate 24 vehicles, according to Town Manager Don Lagrange.

The town approached the Hook family several times about selling that lot to the town but received no response. When the Knote property came on the market, officials turned their attention to that parcel.

On Tuesday, Lagrange told selectmen that Knowles Associates has appraised the Knote property at $600,000. The asking price is $770,000.

A broker from ERA Dawson-Bradford has been working with the town regarding the possible purchase. For tax purposes, the town values the property at $560,000. The broker has said that the sale price should not be “much greater” than the town’s valuation, Lagrange said.

Although selectmen, in general, approved of going ahead with an offer, they did express some concerns.

“Before we go to that step, we should get the public in here,” Tom Benson said.

Lagrange assured him there would be public hearings on the issue before any vote, as is required by state law.

If the town were to purchase the Knote property, Lagrange suggested that the Hook property would no longer be needed and the lease should not be renewed. Selectman Dan Norwood disagreed.

“I don’t see any reason to release the Hook property,” he said, adding that the $8,000 annual expenditure a small price to pay for use of the lot. “It may be available in the future, and the town would want it.”

At a meeting in June, Lagrange proposed a plan that he said would generate more than enough revenue to pay for buying the Knote property and construction of the parking lot. That plan includes paid parking and increasing the number of moorings in the harbor.

The lot would have 60 regular parking spaces plus 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. In addition, there is the potential for revenue from 70 to 80 new moorings in the harbor, a step that couldn’t be taken without making more parking available to boaters, he has said.

Lagrange estimates construction of the parking lot would cost between $350,000 and $400,000. He recommends financing the purchase and construction costs through a loan from local banks. The town also would apply for a number of grants which, if approved, would reduce the cost to the town.

The harbor committee and planning board both have given their approval to the parking lot plan. In addition, Lagrange said, the town’s comprehensive plan recommends increasing public access to the harbor.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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