ROCKPORT, Maine — Rockport voters have decided to limit the size of downtown hotels and require new businesses to conduct traffic studies on their off-street parking plans.
A question on Tuesday’s municipal ballot to cap the number of rooms in downtown hotels at 20 passed by a vote of 328 to 271. A question on traffic studies passed by a vote of 332 to 250. Both were put before voters as the result of two citizen’s petitions.
It is unclear whether Tuesday’s vote will retroactively impact the proposed Rockport Harbor Hotel. Friends of Rockport initially launched petitions to force developers to downsize their proposal for a 26-room project on Central Street, saying it would obstruct views of the harbor and create traffic and parking problems.
Despite the vote, the developer behind the project said he plans to go forward with the proposal as planned since it has already received approval.
“The town may end up needing a legal ruling from their attorney on whether the ordinance change is applicable to our project,” said Tyler Smith, of Bayview Management and 20 Central Street LLC.
Rockport Town Manager Bill Post did not immediately respond to questions regarding how Tuesday’s vote would impact a project that has already been approved.
When it was initially proposed last year, developers 20 Central Street LLC planned to build a 35-room boutique hotel — called Rockport Harbor Hotel — on the vacant lot wedged between 18 Central Oyster Bar and Seafolk Coffee in downtown Rockport. The developer has since reduced the number of rooms to 26 and removed an entire floor, although the project would still consume the entire lot.
If builty, the hotel would be about 27,000 square feet and rise four stories above street level.
Despite having been scaled down, backers of the petitions felt the proposed hotel was still too large. Further restricting the number of rooms allowed in a downtown hotel to 20 could help preserve the “century-old scenic view of the harbor” as well as public parking along Central Street and surrounding areas, they said.
But members of the selectboard said the petitions were “offensive [and] insulting to the hard work of the planning board.” They said the petitions also are “unjust to the developer who had complied with the law and process.”
If built, the Rockport Harbor Hotel would be the first hotel in the downtown area.