In Straw Polls, Rockport Planning Board Finds Hotel Meets Standards – Knox County VillageSoup

ROCKPORT — Invited by a judge’s order in the ongoing dispute over the Rockport Harbor Hotel being built in Rockport Village, the Planning Board again discussed on January 27 whether the new building fits in architecturally with its neighbors and if it meets the parking requirements.

It will vote on those issues Feb. 3 after findings of fact are generated, but in two mock polls conducted Jan. 27, the board voted 4-0 to find the hotel meets the requirements.

Both issues were referred to council by Judge Bruce Mallonee after a group of Rockport residents appealed the city’s approval of the project.

Representing the appellants, attorney Kristin Collins of PretiFlaherty said the council should put the brakes on the process. She argued that the hotel application was not ready for this process, saying no new plan reflecting the court order had been submitted to council. Specifically, she argues that a new application should be made to reduce the number of hotel rooms from 26 to 20 to accommodate the city’s new ordinance and the judge’s order that this project is consistent with that. .

Stuart Smith, who is building the hotel with his son Tyler Smith and his wife, Marianne, said at a recent open house at the hotel that his plan to accommodate the city’s 20-room limit is to combine some rooms he originally planned for a 26-room hotel, making them suites.

Collins argued that the January 26 Planning Council site visit to the hotel gave her a “woefully unfair advantage over what was before the council” in 2020. She said the council was not not supposed to make this decision based on new evidence, and the site walk constituted new evidence.

She argued that a parking study was needed to determine if the hotel met those requirements, adding that the appellants had a parking study done which found a deficit of 133 spaces. She argued that the land behind the buildings did not meet the requirements because it was shared with other entities, including Union Hall and Shepherd Block.

Another big part of the discussion focused on the architectural harmony of the hotel with the surrounding historic village. Collins said the many terraces at the front of the hotel, the balconies and large windows at the rear, and the arches and pillars were not in harmony with the surrounding buildings.

“This building sticks out like a sore thumb,” she said.

She called for developers to come back with a new proposal for a 20-room hotel.

“The fact that the hotel was built and you felt bad for them doesn’t come into play,” she said.

Tyler Smith, representing 20 Central Street, LLC., which is the official name of the company building the hotel, argued that the original information and request was more than sufficient for the board to make its decision on the dismissal.

He said balconies were discussed and reviewed by the board in 2019 and there were terraces and balconies on 80% of the buildings in the hotel area.

Planning Council vice-chairman John Viehman said he couldn’t see how anyone could look at the hotel and not see that it is in harmony with nearby structures. He said one of the callers, an architect across the street, has a balcony on his building.

Planning Council members said the ordinance did not require new buildings to match others exactly. Buildings can be different as long as they fit in using similar materials and colors. One member argued that the harmony was evident in the use of brick and granite, which are the dominant materials in the nearby structures.

President Joe Sternowski said the balconies blend together because of the way they are designed.

Other elements of the new hotel that fit the village include the type of roof and the skylights, according to board members.

In reviewing the issue of parking, the council looked at decisions made on projects involving Sandy’s Way parking dating back to 2008 and 2012. They argued that the parking lot is not currently heavily used.

Each of the disputing parties – Collins and Tyler Smith – were given 15 minutes to present their case at the start of the meeting. No public comment has been allowed.

City documents attached to the meeting include numerous letters from interested parties regarding the project.

The next step will be for counsel for the Planning Council to draft findings of fact and the council will proceed to formal votes on the matter at a special meeting scheduled for February 3 at 5:30 p.m. The meeting was held online, due to the ongoing pandemic. . Check the city’s website, Rockportmaine.gov, for links to views meetings.

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