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BELFAST – After two meetings in the space of a week, the Belfast Planning Board has voted to approve the Belfast Water District site plan and use permit for the property at 41 Wight St.

The approval came after several Belfast residents raised concerns about the plan, particularly the provision to build a six-bay garage on the property.

The site plan meeting was originally scheduled for June 22, but had to be continued until June 29 in part because not all traffickers had been notified of the public hearing on the plan. City planner Jon Boynton said the software used to provide notices to partners did not populate all of the contacts for those partners residing in condominiums, so he needed extra time to ensure that all partners were notified.

The Planning Board decided to proceed with the site plan presentation on June 22 and then opened the public comment portion, during which only two residents spoke about the project. The public portion of the meeting then continued until June 29, where several residents raised their concerns, then council finalized the review process and finally voted to approve the site plan and permit. of use.

The plan was for the Water District, which had recently purchased the property that was once a medical office building, to move its headquarters to the building. As part of the plan, the district proposed to build a 3,200-square-foot six-bay garage on the property, as well as upgrade the stormwater system; build fences to better protect nearby neighbours; and eliminating several parking spaces where the garage would be built.

Water District Superintendent Keith Pooler said the district had been looking for a location for its headquarters for some time since the Nordic Aquafarms project began. After a long search, the district decided that the location at 41 Wight St. was a good choice, as it was a building that had not been used for some time and was located in the center of Belfast, he said.

Pooler said the garage will primarily be used for pickup trucks, a small dump truck and various tools the district uses for repair projects. Pooler said that with the exception of emergencies, which only happen six or seven times a year, the normal work day is 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Dirigo Engineering’s senior project engineer Randy Butler, who worked with the district on the project, said the proposed garage would be built within the existing parking footprint at the rear of the property. He said that while analyzing the existing stormwater system, he discovered that it was originally designed for a stormwater retention pond. He said the plan would be to increase the size of the pond area, which should reduce storm flow. He also discussed several outflow pipe plans that he said would also help reduce storm flow between 40% and 50%.

During the public hearing portion of the June 22 meeting, resident Cary Slocum said she owned one of the condos near the property at 41 Wight St. and was concerned about whether ownership was becoming more industrial. She said she was concerned about the storage of a dump truck on the property, adding that residents might hear noises coming from the truck early in the morning. She also said that several condo units have their master bedrooms near the border with the property and may possibly see or hear activity from the proposed garage.

Resident Stanley Munson said he lived directly across from the Water District property. He said the biggest questions he had about the proposed garage were what effect it would have on traffic patterns along the road and how it would affect property values ​​for area residents.

At the June 29 meeting, Slocum spoke again and referenced a community-wide meeting held on Monday regarding the city’s plans to improve Wight Street. She said that, based on this discussion, she believes the Water District plans are even less compatible with the overall plan for Wight Street outlined at this meeting, which included several measures based on the overall residential character of the road. .

Resident Gene Randall said his patio and master bedroom are in direct line with the proposed development. Randall said he thinks an administrative office would be appropriate for the property. He expressed concern about the size of the garage and that its intended use was more of an industrial use and not compatible with the neighborhood.

Resident Sara Shute described the proposed garage as resembling a fire station. She said she would look at the back of the proposed garage and said the drawings of the back of the building looked like a prison. She urged council to consider the aesthetic and cultural values ​​of the community and said a large garage did not fit the mood of Wight Street.

Other residents expressed similar concerns.

A resident, Michèle Henrion, said she felt depressed by the whole situation. She said people buy into a neighborhood expecting it to be one-way, but then plans come to fruition that change the character of the neighborhood. She asked the council why there was a plan to take over the neighborhood and put a gigantic building in the neighborhood, which she described as upsetting.

During the public hearing, it was discussed what recourse residents would have if they did not like the planning board’s decision. Boynton said once the Planning Board issues permits, anyone in difficulty can appeal the decision within 30 days.

After public comment closed, council proceeded to discuss the site plan, paying particular attention to some of the points raised by residents. One of board chairman Hugh Townsend’s suggestions was to place evergreen trees in the northeast corner of the property to reduce the visibility of the garage, to which Pooler said the district would not oppose the planting of trees.

One of the other talking points was to put a siding over the garage similar to the existing office building on the property to give it the same consistency and look. Several of the residents who spoke said they liked the look of the current building on the property and asked if the garage could be built with a similar look.

The council decided to put a condition on the plan that the district consider a different surfacing and present it to the Intown Design Review Committee. The district said it was ready to consider neighbors’ suggestion for the project.

Townsend said the approval was based on the water district plan being a permitted use and the district meeting the needs of residents.

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