The Damariscotta planning board had a pre-application discussion with Clippership Landing Development LLC Aug. 1 for a new 102-bed nursing facility on Piper Mill Road. The new facility will consolidate Damariscotta's Cove's Edge population and St. Andrews Village's Zimmerli and Gregory Wing populations.
Town Planner Isabelle Oechslie went over site plan requirements and potential inconsistencies with Clippership’s conceptual plans, but clarified feedback changes plans between the pre-app discussions and site plan review. Since the project is more than 20,000 square feet, and because it amends a 2019 subdivision plan, it will be subject to large-scale project standards which will include a future site visit ahead of a full application.
The planning board’s biggest consideration will be the plan’s 119 proposed parking spaces, a far cry from the 34 spaces required by land use code, said Oechslie. She also said plans for a portion of the parking between the north end of the facility and Piper Mill Road will need to change; either 15 spaces will need to be eliminated or plans will need further landscaping details showing appropriate screening from the road.
“(For) properties over half an acre, the minimum parking requirements may be reduced for good reason such as stormwater runoff … So, I just wanted to provide that this evening noting that the applicants are proposing significantly more parking than is required in our ordinance.”
Oechslie said large-scale developments are also required to provide sidewalks which are a priority for School Street per a 2015 agreement with Newcastle. However, the town has not set aside funds to connect sidewalks, so the board may need to consider waiving the requirement. She also said the planned storm-water runoff ponds are not low-impact as rural zoning mandates, but they are allowed if the applicant can provide there are no alternatives. Stormwater management may also need a third-party peer review if the board sees fit, she said.
Daniel Maguire – managing partner at Sandy River Company, the developer of the facility – talked about his company's work on Maine's first all-private-room facility in Rockland which is currently under construction.
“It takes a team to create one of these projects and it takes a lot of community support to actually happen,” said Maguire. “We were invited to look at senior care services in Damariscotta by LincolnHealth.”
He shared concept details of the new facility alongside Doug Gardner, senior vice president of development for North Country Associates, the company which will provide staffing and facilities management. Maguire and Gardner were also accompanied by site planners Rebecca Dillon of Gowran Turgeon Architects and Andy Johnston of Atlantic Resources Consultants.
Damariscotta resident Jim Gallagher said there are concerns about transitioning Boothbay Harbor nursing residents into a new facility 25 minutes away: the project might be a good deal for folks off the peninsula, but not so much for Boothbay region residents’ families and friends whom are often elderly themselves.
“You can't judge the wisdom of MaineHealth in closing the St. Andrews (Hospital) … That's a choice that MaineHealth made for you and not for them … I suppose you can say it's better us than them, that is at least Damariscotta residents won't have to drive to Boothbay Harbor to make those visits. So much for LincolnHealth and MaineHealth and their concern for the community.”
Gallagher said those concerns aside, the planning board should look much closer to home to see the placement of the facility is not ideal. School Street and Bristol Road are often backed up as far as the Peterson property, the junction of School Street and Route 1 as far as Gus Knott's property and High Street’s and School Street’s intersections with Bristol Road are dangerous due to consistent speeding. That will all be made worse by the increased traffic of the facility’s staff, he said.
“This facility is wonderful, but … the problem I have with it is the effect it's going to have on the residents of Damariscotta … I don't believe the location of it is the proper place for a 102-bed facility where staff will clog the intersections at least twice every day, seven days a week in impossible traffic jams in the summer and slipping and sliding in the winter.”
Oechslie said the project’s next step is a site visit on the property which is required for all large-scale developments and subdivision applications.