McDonald’s hearing postponed, again

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

It was another frustrating night, but this time a much smaller crowd, as the developer of a McDonald’s Restaurant in Bridgton once again got a formal hearing postponed Tuesday on a technicality.

The newest hearing date? Tuesday, Nov. 16.

A month and a half after the plans were first presented to the Bridgton Planning Board, the meeting was over almost as soon as it began, when Chairman Steve Collins announced to the gathering of around 15 people that there was “a procedural problem.”

Specifically: Tom Dubois, developer Mark Lopez’s agent with Main-Land Development Corp., had failed to notify abutters of the rescheduled public hearing date 12 days prior to Tuesday’s hearing, as required by the town’s Site Plan Review Ordinance.

Collins said the error was “due to some kind of a lapse.” Dubois, who was present with the plans at the ready, nearby on an easel, apologized to the board and abutters “for not doing this right the first time. It’s all on me.”

It was the second time a public hearing has been put off. After the initial meeting on Sept. 7, the hearing was rescheduled for Sept. 28 for lack of a detailed building plan, among other items. But on Sept. 16, Dubois said Lopez’s company, ML Investments, LLC of Kensington, N.H., wouldn’t have a building plan ready in time for Sept. 28, and requested a postponement.

When the board granted the postponement at their regular meeting on Oct. 5, Dubois turned over completed copies of a preliminary building design done by the architectural firm of Core States Group of Newburyport, Mass. Those plans show a stone-like decorative façade for McDonald’s in front, and a revised building footprint, going from two 40-by-65-foot adjoining buildings to one 40-by-73-foot building (for McDonald’s), and the adjoining retail space now measuring 40-by-60-feet. The development would be built on 1.75 acres Lopez owns on the south side of the Hancock Lumber access road, diagonally across from Hannaford’s supermarket on Portland Road.

“These are still a work in progress, but the applicant thought the board would want to be updated on progress to date,” Dubois wrote in submitting the plans.

When the town’s Executive Assistant, Georgiann Fleck, called Dubois Oct. 18 to check on whether he’d notified abutters, Dubois said he had not, but that he’d do so that day. Dubois then requested that the board proceed with the public hearing anyway on Oct. 26, but that it be continued to the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 2 to allow all abutters sufficient time to address the board and the applicant.

On Tuesday, the board was unanimous in agreeing that to proceed with any part of a public hearing when abutters hadn’t been legally notified could cloud the proceedings, and voted against Dubois’ proposal.

“Because of the intense amount of interest in this project, it is incumbent on us to make this as squeaky clean as possible,” said Collins. He cited an opinion Fleck received from a lawyer with the Maine Municipal Association, which suggested that Dubois could be allowed to make a presentation of the plans and allow public comment, then immediately recess the public hearing to another date and time.

The board, however, felt that the best course would be to cancel all proceedings on Tuesday, just to be on the safe side, should the board’s ruling on the project be challenged in court.

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