The Damariscotta Planning Board unanimously voted to rule the application for the 435 Main St. development complete at its meeting Monday, Nov. 13. The board plans to take up the applicant’s waiver request regarding the location of some parking spaces at its next meeting, in December.
Andrew Sturgeon, director of Maine operations for Hoyle, Tanner & Associates Inc., and engineer Shawn Tobey represented the applicant, Commercial Properties Inc. CEO Daniel Catlin, who was not present for the Nov. 13 meeting.
The meeting marked the fourth planning board meeting during which the board has discussed the application, which calls for the construction of three commercial buildings.
The board found the application to be complete after reviewing the site plan review ordinance checklist for a second time, but some board members expressed a desire to have the applicant complete a community impact study.
Within the town’s site plan review ordinance, there are standards for “large-scale development,” which the ordinance defines as a building or buildings having a total of 7,500 square feet or more on one property.
As Catlin’s proposed development totals approximately 30,200 square feet, the planning board could decide to apply the large-scale development standards, including a request for a community impact study, but the board retains the right to modify or waive specific criteria if it finds the standards to be “impractical or inappropriate.”
Chair Jonathan Eaton spoke against requiring the applicant to conduct a community impact study, as it is unknown what businesses or services will be in the buildings. As the retail spaces are rentals, the tenants could change over time, he said.
“You can’t do an impact study on nothing,” Eaton said. “To have these folks do an impact study on something we don’t know exists seems pretty stupid to me.”
Alternate Jenny Begin suggested that the applicant could run impact studies with hypothetical tenants. She also expressed concern about the impact the new development would have on both traffic and stormwater runoff, but Sturgeon said the Maine Department of Transportation and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection have requirements the development must meet.
Town Planner Tony Dater suggested that the applicant could be required to submit a community impact study when the spaces are rented, but board members were unsure if that could be required once the application is approved. Dater said he would consult with town attorney Jenny Villeneuve on the matter and report back.
Planning board member Wilder Hunt asked Sturgeon and Tobey about what studies Catlin had conducted before deciding to build the development in Damariscotta. The decision was not one made “off the cuff,” Sturgeon said, and was researched in-depth before putting forth an application.
“We’ve had clients that have asked, in particular the bank, and … I think it will fill up fairly quick, and I think we’re going to put up a high-quality development,” Sturgeon said.
Sturgeon and Tobey also presented a proposed landscape change to better shield cars parked in front of the 5,525-square-foot-building facing Main Street. The town’s site plan review ordinance calls for parking lots to be behind or beside buildings in an effort to separate parking areas from frontage roads, however, the ordinance allows the planning board to grant a waiver if it finds there is appropriate screening proposed.
In previous meetings, Catlin expressed a strong desire to have parking in front of the building facing Main Street, citing concern for the safety of visitors and the ability to lease a space.
The applicant’s request for a waiver for parking in front of the 5,525-square-foot-building was “really more of a third of a waiver” as parking for the other two buildings is in compliance with the town’s ordinance, Sturgeon said.
Tobey presented the planning board with a new screening plan showing additional plantings and a berm, or slight hill, that would completely conceal the cars from the view of passing motorists.
Members of the board expressed satisfaction with the screening plan.
“I think you have been very receptive to address the concerns,” Hunt said. “I see these additions as very, very positive.”
The planning board did not vote on the waiver request Nov. 13, and will put the matter on the agenda for the December meeting.