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- The Forecaster
PEAKS ISLAND — A proposal to build a parking lot for a home fuel delivery business is generating considerable response from island residents.
Keith Ivers, a 31-year-old islander, has submitted plans to build a 4,200-square-foot parking lot at 512 Island Ave.
Ivers plans to purchase a two-bedroom ranch house on the 3/4-acre site, where he can also park seven vehicles owned by his company, Peaks Island Fuels, which was started by his grandfather and other partners in 1987.
The property is zoned for island businesses and abuts a shoreland zone. Ivers is not seeking any special exceptions or zone changes for the project.
But some opponents claim island zoning is outdated and Ivers’ proposed use does not belong in the neighborhood. Four of the seven vehicles are fuel trucks, which some residents claim will ruin the area.
City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said the city has received 90 written communications and 23 phone calls about the project. The city has not broken those communications down in terms of support or opposition, she said.
But when city staff made a site visit on July 1, they were greeted by about 50 concerned citizens, according to Fred O’Keefe, who opposes the project.
Ivers, meanwhile, said his girlfriend, who is pregnant, felt threatened by the residents’ action, so she and their 2-year-old daughter left the house.
Clegg said the crowd was “cordial,” and O’Keefe, in a follow-up letter to islanders, said there was no reason for anyone to be afraid.
“There was no overt action taken by the group to create an atmosphere of fear, violence or even disturbing the peace,” O’Keefe said.
The proposed project area is next door to the Trefethen-Evergreen Improvement Association, or TEIA, Club, which posted a message on its website saying it, too, has concern about the impact on the neighborhood.
When the Peaks Island Council held a meeting to discuss the issue on July 28, about 70 or so people showed up, most in support of Ivers, Councilor Rusty Foster said.
“It’s rare to have a meeting on Peaks Island where everyone says the same thing,” said Foster, who attributed some of the dispute to ongoing tension between year-round and summer residents.
But now there are dueling petitions being circulated on the island, one in favor of Ivers’ plan and one opposed. It’s unclear what role the petitions will play in the city’s review.
Ivers said he now pays about $10,000 a year to park his vehicles behind Jones Landing. Without cutting costs, he said, he’s afraid his business will fold.
That’s got some islanders concerned about having only one home heating fuel provider on Peaks.
“Year-rounders are extremely sensitive to the fact that we can’t have a fuel monopoly out here,” Foster said. “Prices are higher than on the mainland, but they’re sane. Without that competition, they would not be sane.”
Ivers said he supplies fuel and furnace services to about 800 people on Peaks, Little Diamond, Great Diamond and Long islands.
While opponents have raised environmental concerns about his proposal, Ivers noted that the parking lot at Jones Landing is about 150 feet closer to the ocean than his proposed new location, which, unlike Jone’s Landing, will be equipped to deal with possible fuel spills.
Parking at Jones Landing is also not secure, Ivers said. After reggae Sundays, Ivers said it’s common to find beer bottles and cigarette butts on and near his trucks. He must also avoid ferry crowds when driving in and out.
Although the proposed lot is an allowed use in the Island Business zone, O’Keefe said in his letter that the city should revise island zoning. “The zoning laws for Peaks Island are antiquated to say the least,” he said.
Clegg said planners are awaiting a new parking lot plan this week from Ivers. The new plan reconfigures the parking and adds landscaping around a 6-foot tall fence to shield the lot from view.
Ivers said his contract on the property expires Aug. 31. Any delays would affect his financing, he said.
He also said there is a rumor that a lawsuit may follow any city approval of the lot. And O’Keefe did not squelch that rumor in his letter to islanders, which also said opposition should not be considered a vendetta against Ivers.
“Property owners have every right to disagree and challenge his decision when they believe that his decision will adversely affect them,” O’Keefe said.
PORTLAND — Anyone who purchases a monthly or annual pass from the Casco Bay Island Transit District can now get a discount courtesy of the Peaks Island Council.
The council allocated $25,000 for the ferry discount program, which provides a $20 discount on monthly passes and a $250 discount on annual passes.
PIC member Rusty Foster said the program is designed to help commuters coming to and from the island, where food, gas and other necessities cost more than on the mainland.
“People who have to go back and forth everyday for work have a whole other commuting cost,” Foster said. “So, that’s what we’re trying to help out with.”
Foster said regular ferry riders are often discouraged from buying annual passes, since they would have to ride the ferry every weekday for the pricing to work out. And even if they ride every day, passes aren’t cheap.
“It’s a big chuck of change up front,” he said.
A monthly Peaks Island pass costs more than $80, while an annual pass runs more than $900. A monthly pass to Cliff Island, the furthest from the mainland, costs about $125, while an annual pass costs about $1,375.
But the program comes at a cost. In this case, the council will no longer subsidize summer ferry passes for students.
Foster said the city funds ferry passes for public school children for 10 months a year.
The new discounts are available on a first-come, first-served basis until either the money runs out or the fiscal year ends on June 30, 2012.
Foster said the council has set aside enough money to provide discounts to the dozen or so people who already have annual ferry passes.
The discounts are applied by Casco Bay Lines and the PIC reimburses the ferry service.
— Randy Billings