Retail wins ok, but go-kart on back burner

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

Tom Churches has put his plans for a controversial go-kart track and family entertainment center next to the Bridgton Drive-in on the back burner, and by so doing won easy approval Tuesday from the Bridgton Planning Board to move forward with the first phase of his project, a five-unit retail store and storage building.

Churches, developer of Mountain Mini-Storage and owner of The Shipping Store, ran into problems at his previous board appearance when his overall, $3 million three-phase project was deemed incomplete. He withdrew the application on Oct. 19, and resubmitted for just the first phase of the plan, which will allow him to relocate The Shipping Store from leased space on Portland Road to the front portion of a 4-acre vacant lot at 323 Portland Road that he is purchasing from developer Mark Lopez.

His dream to create Bridgton Raceway, Inc. — including an 800-foot electric go-kart track, hot wheels kiddie track, and a myriad of hi-tech family games both outside and under cover — will have to wait until he submits new applications for those projects. The board did not discuss any aspect of those plans, which have raised both lighting and noise concerns by drive-in owner John Tevanian.

The 30’-by-120’ retail office building will be constructed with blue/gray vinyl siding and include a farmer’s porch across the front. There will be extensive landscaping, with perennials and shrubs, and the existing tall pines bordering the drive-in property will be preserved and enhanced by the additional planting of Canadian hemlock trees. State transportation officials are requiring Churches to provide a one-way entrance into the parking lot from Route 302, with an exit on to Home Run Road and Route 117.

“The signage will be done first class, as I did with the Mountain Mini Storage sign,” Churches wrote in his application. The sign will advertise the retail spaces, and make no mention of Bridgton Raceway, Inc. Consulting designer George Sawyer told the board that lighting will be minimal, with two lights to light the parking lot and one light to illuminate the entrance road. The foot-candle power will drop off to zero at the property boundary, leaving no potential for affecting the drive-in movie experience.

Although there are three small wetlands on the property, the project as it stands now won’t need a wetlands permit from the state, and also won’t require a stormwater control permit.

“When and if the second phase comes, both those items would be required,” Sawyer said.

The board approved the plan, conditional on Churches’ demonstration of financial and technical capacity to complete the project, as well as to demonstrate the 300-foot required separation from Tevanian’s public drinking water supply. Final approval is scheduled for the board’s Dec. 7 meeting.

A new healing center

In other action, the board granted approval to Kevin Pennell of Bethel to convert a residential home at 6 Harrison Street to commercial use as a therapeutic healing arts center. The business, to be called East West Healing Arts & Apothecary, will offer Reiki, massage, counseling, herbs and supplements.

Hours of operation will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., along with occasional evening workshops. Pennell said he has eight years experience helping people in the alternative healing arts, and has other businesses lined up to lease space in the building, including The Healing Bridge. He will be purchasing the building through owner financing from current owners Michael Denison and Julie Mannix.

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