Planners hear more testimony on Hotel Bridgton, fail to reach review stage

VIEW FROM ABOVE — Hotel Bridgton developer Justin McIver explains the layout of a scale model to Bridgton Planning Board member Dee Miller. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

As planners collected, organized and placed new documents regarding the proposed Hotel Bridgton into folders or binders, a natural question to be asked is, “How will you keep it all straight when it finally comes time for your deliberations?”

Another three hours of public hearing produced more paperwork and more questions to be answered the next time the Planning Board meets on the topic of Hotel Bridgton — likely sometime in March.

Chairman Steve Collins limited the general public (including a Save Kennard Street contingent) to three minutes to make their points. Presentations by developer Justin McIver and Michael Tadema-Wielandt, PE, of Terradyn Consultants pushed the January meeting to the self-imposed “witching hour,” thus forcing another public hearing suspension.

And, still no start to the board’s 20-plus step review process.

What was learned:

• Tadema-Wielandt noted that the plan had been revised slightly since the January meeting. The hotel was rotated slightly to move it out of the Stream Protection District. What complicates the plan is portions of the old Saunders Mill lot (2.53 acres, commercial lot) touch three different districts — Shoreland, Stream Protection and General Development.

Addressing concerns regarding emergency vehicle access to the site from Kennard Street, a six-foot privacy fence adjacent to a nearby abutter would include a gate that could be opened for first responders or for maintenance purposes. The gate would not be used by guests or employees. They access the property via Bacon Street.

Another plan revision would be to add a small, curbed island at the site of the utility pole, located at the Bacon-Kennard Street intersection. The developer will check with Central Maine Power regarding moving that pole, as another option to improve traffic safety.

Tadema-Wielandt addressed previous questions regarding adequate parking spaces, especially for those attending a function at the banquet center. The plan calls for 82 onsite spaces and 42 offsite.

• Planners had previously asked for scale models to get a better feel of the size of Hotel Bridgton in comparison to the Kennard Street neighborhood. Both sides delivered show-and-tell models, which can be viewed by the public at the town office. Developer Justin McIver, owner of Main Eco Homes, noted that the hotel has been scaled back to 35-feet in height to meet local standards, which is the same height as nearby NAGA.

McIver said the area is already a “mixed use” neighborhood with some offering homes as rental properties.

• Diane Morabito, president of Maine Traffic Resources in Gardiner with over 30 years of traffic engineering experience, discussed traffic counts and patterns. In response to Planner Dee Miller’s interest in how traffic currently flows on Bacon and Kennard Street, nine days of video was taken. Looking to keep the proceedings transparent, Chairman Collins requested that a link to the video could be accessed via the town’s website.

Morabito did note in her presentation that while the Maine Department of Transportation also uses video, it does not make footage public due to privacy concerns.

Planner Deb Brusini expressed concerns regarding maneuverability of tour buses or tractor-trailers trying to deliver to the hotel. Morabito noted that deliveries would be made by box-trucks, not tractor trailers.

The board admittedly hope to see traffic numbers from busy summer months, rather than figures from the spring (April) and projections using established formulas.

Miller said she was “struck by how small Kennard Street is.” Space is tight when two vehicles pass each other, and if you add pedestrians walking to the mix, there is a space crush, she pointed out.

• Tadema-Wielandt pointed out that the developer would seek a setback waiver, citing the “unique circumstances of the site.” He pointed to the placement of parking at the northern corner of the lot, which is “long and narrow there.” The setback calls for 50 feet from Stevens Brook, but the board is allowed to reduce that setback by 50% as long as specific criteria is met, Tadema-Wielandt said.

Resident Doug Oakley pointed to town ordinance that prohibit adding fill, earthmoving or installing retaining walls in the Stream Protection District. He cited other ordinance standards, counter to the developer’s request.

• Cathy DiPietro, an engineer acting in a pro bono capacity for the Save Kennard Street group, had questions regarding wastewater and the amount of capacity awarded to the hotel under the town’s wastewater ordinance, whether it is sufficient to handle such matters such as if the hotel’s pool was drained.

• Resident Paul Tworog questioned the assumption that the hotel is more compatible than the old mill facility and should be approved.

“That’s totally irrelevant,” he said. “It’s a prime parcel of land that will be developed, but it doesn’t have to be this project…it’s not appropriate.”

With the town spending $21 million to upgrade its wastewater sewer system to protect local waterways, he feels placing a hotel next to Stevens Brook undermines that effort.

• Other comments made:

Nancy Donovan voiced concerns regarding noise, noting that when the mill operated, it closed at 5 p.m., unlike a hotel that is open 24/7.

Miller wanted a better definition from the developer as to what “boutique hotel” actually means. She sought information about what the hotel would look like on the inside, but Collins deemed the inquiry not appropriate.

No date has been set for resumption of the hearing.

COMPETING SCALE MODEL is presented by Save Kennard Street member Tom Smith.
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