A 102-bed nursing facility on Piper Mill Road and an 18-acre solar farm on Route 1 in Damariscotta both have one more year to break ground following approval extensions by the planning board on Tuesday, Sept. 12.
Damariscotta’s site plan review ordinance requires approvals to be renewed or a new proposal submitted after a year unless “substantial” work has begun.
The Clippership Landing project was approved by the board in January, offering 102 licensed nursing care beds to replace those at LincolnHealth’s Cove’s Edge at its Miles Campus in Damariscotta and St. Andrews Village in Boothbay Harbor. Daniel McGuire, managing partner at Sandy River Co., attended the meeting and said the extension is standard procedure.
“I can’t think of any application in four years that we have not had to file an extension for,” McGuire said. “There’s never been any condition or reason to extend, other than that these projects take time.”
Town Planner Michael Martone said the board would need a solid reason to base its decision on if it did not extend the approval. The board voted 4-0-1 to approve the request, with Neil Genthner abstaining. Jonathan Eaton was absent and alternate Daniel Day voted in his place.
In addition to the approval extension, the board and McGuire discussed changing 34 of the beds from licensed as nursing care to residential care.
McGuire said none of the exterior project details or its approval terms would change, but formal acknowledgement from the board would prevent problems in legal review before closing dates.
The change was made to meet local needs and insurance reimbursement changes, McGuire said, and will likely shift again in the future.
According to Martone, nursing care facilities and residential care facilities are defined separately in the land use ordinance, but are mixed in the ordinance’s schedule of land use table. He and member Jenny Begin said they felt the ordinance has weak points, but the project fits that ordinance as written.
Members voted 4-0-1 for Martone to send a letter to developers acknowledging the board was notified of the change and it would not impact approvals. Genthner abstained.
The solar array project was approved in 2021 for 18 acres to be developed on a 44-acre lot on the east side of Route 1 at the border of Damariscotta and Nobleboro. The approval was extended for one year last November.
Damariscotta Solar I LLC, sponsored by New York-based Syncarpha Capital, has not begun construction because Central Maine Power Co. included the project in a transmission study, a letter from representatives said. Syncarpha project energy goes into the CMP grid system, according to the company’s website.
Damariscotta Solar was not aware the project would be included at the time of the first permit request, the letter said, and work can begin after study results are received in November.
Genthner said the delay has a good reason, and applicable ordinances have not changed, so the town would not have a basis to deny the extension or ask the developers to submit a new proposal. Doing so could hurt project funding, he said.
“If they haven’t got it by (next year), I think we need to go back to the drawing board,” he said.
Members voted unanimously to extend the approval for one year.
In other business, Martone and the board discussed options for amendments to the town’s site plan review ordinance. Martone said minor definition changes could be put before voters separately from major changes such as building arrangement and lighting standards, which would benefit from more public input and would need a longer timeline.
Members agreed to revisit the ordinance at a future meeting.
The Damariscotta Planning Board next meets at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 2 in the town office and online.