BRIDGTON — A 175-seat banquet center has been eliminated from plans for the Hotel Bridgton project.
The Planning Board members began deliberations May 29, but a final vote was not taken on the project being proposed by Justin McIver of Maine Eco Homes to build a hotel on the Saunders Mill site and two adjacent parcels on Bacon and Kennard streets.
Michael Tadema-Wielandt of Terradyn Consultants presented “the latest and hopefully final changes to the Hotel Bridgton project” May 22 on behalf of McIver.
The most significant change, Tadema-Wielandt said, is the elimination of the banquet center from the plans. The number of rooms in the hotel was also reduced from 68 to 66.
“It reduces the scale of the building and a lot of the impacts associated with the project,” Tadema-Wielandt said.
In addition, some parking and paved areas were moved farther back from the perimeter of the property as the applicant learned parking areas were not allowed in those setback areas. The number of parking spaces was also reduced, from 84 to 51 on site and from 42 to 33 in the satellite lot nearby.
Cape Elizabeth attorney David Lourie, who represents a citizens’ group called Save Kennard Street, then brought up the issue of contouring the land within the Stream Protection District, which he said is “something the developer continues to ignore.”
“A lot of things that are proposed here are not consistent with good planning and are just attempts by the developer to evade the ordinances. I think it’s time for you to finally call an end to this farce where they keep coming back with these same violations of the ordinances and the same poor designs,” Lourie continued.
Mike Morse, a private environmental consultant hired on behalf of the applicant, said he takes the position that the area is an “existing disturbed area. Because of that, that grandfathers that type of use.”
Catherine DiPietro, a private consultant hired on behalf of the Save Kennard Street group, countered that although state regulations allow fill in the Shoreland Zone, the town’s ordinance regarding Land Use in the zone does not.
Planning Board member Kenneth Gibbs said he has concerns about the possible buildup of runoff with too much rain.
Tadema-Wielandt said a maintenance plan to address the issue has been included in the stormwater report.
Board member Dee Miller asked, “Have you considered the sunset as one of the best assets of the hotel and would give it personality and –” before being interrupted by Planning Board Chairman Steve Collins, who said, “Ms. Miller, that’s frivolous. Please, you’re chewing up time.”
Board members also asked questions about a nearby utility pole, wastewater and the impact on the nearby town beach.
Representatives again returned to the issue of filling and earth moving.
“This is a grandfathered use. It is legally existing disturbed area,” Morse said.
Lourie countered, “It’s a change in use, and it is not grandfathered. And he’s making this stuff up because it does not exist in the law.”
Tadema-Wielandt maintained that most of the site, aside from a forested tree line, has already been disturbed, including the area in question, which is grassy.
“None of the disturbance proposed will create new disturbance. It’s all within areas that have already been disturbed,” he said.
Lourie added, “The interpretation of an ordinance is a question of law and if you do not decide it correctly, a court may well overturn your decision. It’s up to this board. You cannot approve a plan which violates either the site plan ordinance or the stream protection ordinance.”
During public participation, many residents spoke, both for and against the project.
“I do support Justin and Maine Eco Homes and the hotel project. We couldn’t be in better hands. We know the town needs that downtown area improved. I think a hotel in downtown is a great way to do it,” said Bridgton resident Kevin Duffy.
The board then voted to close the public hearing, meaning that it will receive no more public input.
In the months since the last public hearing in January, according to Collins, the board received two letters from Lourie.
In the letters, Lourie laid out procedural objections to continuing the public hearing, including the assertion that certain submissions were untimely, among others.
However, Collins ruled at the May 22 public hearing that none of Lourie’s points were valid reasons to cancel or postpone the hearing.
Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at [email protected]
The Planning Board has begun reviewing plans for Hotel Bridgton, proposed to be located at the site of the former Saunders Mill at Bacon and Kennard streets in Bridgton.
This original model of the proposed Hotel Bridgton project has now been altered by removing the banquet center and changing the location and number of parking spaces.