Naples’ board tables Family Dollar project

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — A proposed Family Dollar building has gone from sketches of a flat-roofed boxy structure in October, to a rendering similar to New England-style homes with a pitched metal roof, false shutters, and an abundance of glass windows.

Still, some members of the Naples Planning Board would like to see a little more character on the outside of the chain store.

With updated plans in hand, a real estate agent and an engineer hired by Family Dollar came before the planning board for a second time on Tuesday.

Ultimately, the board tabled approval of the project, and asked the Family Dollar representatives to return in a few weeks or a month with a more aesthetically pleasing sketch of the structure, additional landscaping that meshes with the trees planted in front of the abutting building, and a stamp of approval from the Cumberland County Soil and Water District (CCSWD) on the stormwater runoff plans.

The location of the proposed Family Dollar is on the north side of Route 302 between Aubuchon Hardware and the building that formerly housed VillageSide Restaurant, and prior to that, Sydney’s Restaurant. In a related matter, the decades-old restaurant building will be demolished and a new Dunkin’ Donuts store will be constructed in that space. In January, the board had approved the site plans for a Dunkin’ Donuts store there.

That being said: On Tuesday, the board asked the people involved in the Family Dollar project to get together with the engineer working on the Dunkin’ Donuts project. The objective would be to tie together vehicular accessibility — as pointed out by Chairman Larry Anton.

“It needs to be joint access because people will go both ways. Customers from Dunkin’ Donuts will stop into Family Dollar” and vice versa, Anton said.

The role of the planning board, at this juncture, was to go through a checklist and make certain that the application was complete. The item was tabled in order to give the people representing Family Dollar time to finalize aspects of the proposal: the building, the landscaping, the stormwater runoff plan, and coordinating with Dunkin’ Donuts.

Speaking on the behalf of Family Dollar was Max Simpson, of Hunt Real Estate, and Project Engineer Kevin Trainor, with Ransom Consulting, Inc.

What took up most of the discussion time was the appearance of the building and its landscaping.

Board member Kevin Rogers spoke adamantly against the proposed chain store. He even threw out a motion to deny the application. However, nobody seconded the motion so it never made it to the table.

“In my eyes, if we allow this, this is going to be a downward spiral to the character of our town,” Rogers said.

Prior to that statement, he said, “I know that we heard some members of the board say they thought the building design was great or okay.”

“If you drive down the street and see the surrounding properties, everyone has gone above and beyond” to make the business district look harmonious.

He cited examples of architecture such as the primary care office building, the pharmacy, and Aubuchon.

“Proposed structures should be harmonious to existing buildings. This does not have that,” Rogers said.

Rogers said he wanted to deny the project based on the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which lays out a goal of having business structures that are concordant with one another.

Simpson responded to Rogers’ comments, “First of all, with the boards that we go through, this is a review of the completeness of the site review application.”

“That building is the pitched roof building that you wanted. We are developing a new program” in which colonial-style structures are constructed, he said.

“This is going to be a corporately-owned store. My input to Family Dollar was the fake clapboard siding and the pitched roof,” he said, later adding that the roof would be constructed from metal so that it would last longer and the vinyl siding would also have a longer lifespan.

“Most Family Dollars are not very attractive,” he said.

“We should have come here with a design of the landscaping so you could get a more realistic view. The shrubbery is going to be attractive. We do have that in our budget,” he said.

“It is going to look almost exactly like Aubuchon,” he said.

Rogers countered his comment, saying, “It is one notch below. Then, there will be the next notch below.”

The catch-22 before the planning board is that it can make requests to have the exterior of new businesses adhere to the comprehensive plan; however, there is nothing in the town’s ordinances to legally mandate the board’s requests.

According to Naples Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Renee Carter, the concepts outlined in the comprehensive plan are what residents strive for. But, there are no set standards or ordinances that govern the appearance of a proposed business building.

Likewise, the board’s request to have the access roads paved is simply a request. There is not an ordinance in writing that would control whether an access road is created from asphalt or maintained gravel.

“It (the access road) needs to be usable right away,” Anton said.

Simpson asked for a clarification if the right-of-way needed to be paved.

CEO Carter answered, “It doesn’t say it has to be paved. There are no standards.”

Anton acknowledged her statement.

“Right, but we’d like to see it paved,” he said.

Simpson said that request would add to the company’s construction costs.

The proposed access for Family Dollar would be the existing Aubuchon entrance, according to Engineer Trainor. The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) has granted the project and entrance permit to continue to use Aubuchon’s entrance from Route 302, he said. The parking lot would have 25 parking spaces, two of which would be for handicapped drivers.

Another point of discussion was landscaping, and both the board and audience members weighed in on the topic.

According to the sketches, there will be a 15x6-foot garden bed in the front of the building.

“At this time, there are no landscaped trees in front. A buffer is not required. Based on the parking lot location, putting trees in the drainage or within a certain distance of right-of-way was not our intention,” Trainor said.

Currently, all the area that is not building, pavement, or parking lot will be lawn, he said.

Audience member Darrin Rogers, of CareTake America, asked if there was a way to plant any trees toward the right-of-way.

“I am seeing pretty stark roadside frontage. Aubuchon was required to plant trees because they have about four or five of them. They are actually going to grow and look good after a while,” Rogers said.

Simpson agreed to the idea of more foliage.

“If the board wants more trees, we could do that,” he said.

Board member Rogers said, “It would be nice to have trees.”

Simpson said it was doable as long as the trees did not block signage and create a public safety hazard.

‘It would take quite a bit of trees to block the signs,” Rogers said.

Chairman Anton consulted the board members, “Assuming they come back with additional landscaping for trees, will that please the board?”

There was a round of nods from the planning board.

Although Simpson asked for preliminary approval contingent on completing portions of the application, the board voted unanimously to table the application until it next meeting on April 1.

 

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