Rockland doesn’t want to turn an old contaminated junkyard into a parking lot

Rockland will not go ahead with a proposal from the Maine Department of Transportation to turn the site of a former dump into a parking lot.

At a virtual workshop on Monday, city councilors decided to pass on a transformation grant opportunity, asking staff to notify DOT.

The city has owned the Rockland Street site since it was seized for unpaid property taxes in 2016. The site, which was a dumping ground for decades, has since been cleaned up. City councilors and neighbors on Rockland Street have expressed interest in pursuing an environmental cleanup of the property, rather than paving the area for parking.

“There are concerns about whether or not [the parking lot proposal] is just the fastest way to not deal with contamination issues, we don’t want the issue to just be swept under a layer of asphalt, ”said Dan Dalrymple, who owns two neighboring lots on Rockland Street. “It looks like there are a lot more creative uses this property could be put to.”

City officials and the transportation department have been discussing the possibility of turning the site into a park and ride for years, according to Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell. The ministry recently asked Rockland to sign a grant that would cover the bulk of the design and construction work estimated at $ 300,000.

However, Luttrell will advise the ministry that it should direct these funds elsewhere after city councilors agree that Residential Rockland Street would not be a suitable location for parking.

A number of Rockland residents came to the virtual city council meeting on Monday evening to voice concerns about the parking proposal. Neighbors feared that a parking lot would create noise and traffic problems on the small residential street.

“It makes perfect sense not to have an asphalt parking lot in the middle of a neighborhood,” said Rockland City Councilor Lousie MacLellan-Ruf. “I think if we can clean it up, I think it’s the best option.”

In order to continue any other use of the property, an environmental cleanup would be necessary to rid the site of contaminants. Luttrell said a full site restoration could cost around $ 500,000. However, Luttrell said the site would be a good candidate for US Environmental Protection Agency grant opportunities.

Councilors agreed the city should seek state and federal grants to clean up the site.

“If we have the opportunity to do the remediation when there is nothing on this land and then put it back into operation as something better, let’s try to make that happen,” said City Councilor Sarah Austin. “It’s an important, close [to downtown] neighborhood, it would be great to see houses there.

For nearly 100 years, a commercial scrapyard owned by the Shafter family has operated on the Rockland Street site. In the 1990s, following a fire, city officials urged landlords to bring the scrapyard into compliance with local ordinances and safety requirements. The Shafters have indicated they are trying to do so, according to Bangor Daily News archives.

Eventually, the business ceased operations in the early 2010s and was seized by the city in 2016. Since then, a house on the property has been demolished and an empty lot is all that remains.

“The streets are kind of on the rise after a long period of domination by the old Shafter dump,” said Dalrymple.

Neighbors of the property have expressed interest in the possibility that the site will be used in the future for housing or public green spaces.

“Considering the prime location and space here, I think this is a missed opportunity to top it off with parking as it’s the simpler option,” said Katrina Saucier, resident of Rockland Street.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Dan Dalrymple’s name.

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