Recent reading about Rockport Harbor Hotel was exciting news; a revitalization of downtown Rockport Village creating jobs and restaurants that will help the tax base.

Trying to understand both sides, something flashed back, NIMBY. NIMBY stands for “not in my backyard” and brought memories of the YMCA coming to Rockport decades ago.

The YMCA’s location in downtown Camden was obsolete and they were looking to expand, right across from my house. The process was worrisome; the size of the new building seemed gigantic, increased traffic was concerning — we had three young boys and drivers had lead feet.

The YMCA went through the Planning Board process and was built. The first winter was tough, headlights direct at our kitchen table as kids were picked up at 6 p.m. — the exit meant stopping before turning, lights were constant. The YMCA leadership came to our house and witnessed this. They heard us, but the second egress was here to stay. A new row of trees would eliminate the problem the following winter. The YMCA became a favorite hangout for our teen boys. Given the chance, the Y became a good neighbor and an asset to our community.

Back to the Rockport Harbor Hotel, a project that will rejuvenate Rockport Village, resurrecting the community where 30 years ago we walked to breakfast at the Corner Shop. Years earlier we would go to the village to watch Andre the Seal and have lunch at the Sail Loft. The Maine Photographic Workshop was also busy and prominent.

Change is hard but without change, nothing happens — nothing is not a good thing for a community.

My other NIMBY experience came in Rockland where the three-family house where we started our family abutted the proposed MBNA complex. On a summer night, CEO Charles Cawley invited neighbors to a “town meeting,” answering concerns about the building he would construct.

The apprehensive crowd asked questions; someone piped up that views would be spoiled by the large structure when a neighbor reminded us we had been staring at skyscraper-high piles of not-so-pretty snowplows for decades.

Fast forward, a building that now houses the local YMCA and has a boardwalk, open to the public (maintained by Stuart Smith, current owner of the building) — it is a highlight of a walk around Rockland Harbor. MBNA revitalized the South End of Rockland.

The process of this new hotel has been fully vetted for Stuart, Tyler and Marianne Smith. They have compromised, answered many questions of worried neighbors. The traffic created by a 26-room hotel will not compare to Andre the Seal, Photo Workshop, or the Corner Shop; it will be negligible, and they have enough parking.

The structure itself, in looking at the architect's rending, fits a village motif. The lounge at the top, open to the public, will provide a better view of the harbor than a passerby gets walking. Visitors and locals can stroll to the nearby park to enjoy unobstructed views of the ocean.

How will the Smiths be as neighbors and stewards of this property?

For that answer, look to history. Their hotels in downtown Camden are pristine. They have brought Maine Sport back to downtown and done their best to keep their Rockport store on Route 1 open. They employ many people and have helped others with their businesses.

Knowing Stuart since 1985 gives me a comfort level in how this project will unfold. When the Free Press began, Maine Sport was there to support it from day one; many other business people hedged their bets, waiting to see if it would last. When Stuart built the Maine Sport building on Route 1, I would put on my mud boots when it was time to talk about his weekly ad because he was excavating, in the trenches with his crew. That building is testimony to doing things right.

Stuart has been my landlord on four occasions. Each experience has been excellent. I rented from him in the Breakwater Building on Route 1 in Rockland; he renovated to meet our needs and helped a struggling business get back on its feet.

Recently, he poured thousands (many) into moving part of my business to Camden. He spared no expense in bringing the building to code, putting in new ventilation, with a payback that will take 10-plus years to recoup.

The evidence suggests that the revitalization of Rockport Village will come without ill effects and, like the YMCA and MBNA projects, good year-round jobs and nice restaurants will follow.

The process of negotiation has been intense and drawn out. Opponents are trying to suppress the previous approval, after the fact. Let the building begin; my family and others are looking forward to walking to breakfast again in Rockport Harbor.

Perhaps the Smiths can figure out how to bring Andre back and life on the harbor will be perfect once again.


“Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit. It is never a narrowing of the mind or a restriction of the human spirit.” — Jawaharlal Nehru, freedom fighter, first prime minister of India (1889-1964)