by Darcie Moore
BRUNSWICK - A $5.7 million plan to provide affordable senior housing on Baribeau Drive was given an early show of support by the Planning Board at its meeting Tuesday night.
Five members of the board unanimously approved the sketch-plan application submitted by the Brunswick Housing Authority to construct a three-story congregate care facility at 50 Baribeau Drive. The building would be 52,530 square feet with 40 low-income senior dwelling units. It would also have a 43-space parking lot located on the 3.56 acre parcel.
Planning Board member Dana Totman abstained from voting on the project and left early to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest because of his professional association with Avesta Housing, the nonprofit organization working with the Brunswick Housing Authority on the project.
The proposed project was determined to be predominately in the medical overlay zone — a key determination because that zone allows a congregate care facility. All agreed that because of the services offered — transportation, meals and housekeeping — the project does meet the town ordinance's definition for congregate care, but members still wanted an interpretation from the codes enforcement officer. The approval hinges on interpretation of that definition, chairwoman Rita Worthing said this morning.
After the vote Tuesday, Worthing emphasized that the approval was for the sketch plan only. The plan would still need final plan approval as part of the town's two-step process for such projects.
Planning Board member Carol Liscovitz asked why the parking lot had so many spaces when the facility would provide transportation.
A representative from Avesta Housing, the Portland-based nonprofit agency that would be buying the property and developing the project, said that most residents of such facilities have cars and are independent.
Margaret Wilson also asked about the height of the building and buffers to ensure neighbors can enjoy their backyards. Though there is existing fencing on the property, Wilson pointed out that it's hard to hide a 40-foot building behind a six-foot fence.
Resident Alice Carol, of 43 Baribeau Drive, voiced four concerns she has for the project, as well as her support for the project if they can be addressed. They included noise as a result of the higher potential for needed ambulances to the facility; traffic flow with issues of elderly drivers and crosswalks in the area where people already drive too fast when children are walking to school; water drainage is already a problem in the area for some of the residents there; and possible environmental impacts in the form of potential salt and lawn chemical run off to the wetlands area on the site.
There are still some setback and footprint issues to be addressed as part of the final plan review to come.
"In concept, I'm willing to sign off on it," said Theo Holtwijk, Brunswick's director of planning.
Also, the board approved the final plan application by the Tedford Shelter for a two-story building to house eight efficiency apartments at 19 Middle St. to help homeless adults transition to self-sufficiency. The plan includes the demolition of a 3,000-square-foot brick building at the site. The new building will reuse some of the material from that building.
Worthing said the Tedford Shelter met the majority of the suggestions made a few weeks ago at sketch plan approval by providing more storage area; better enclosure and access for the Dumpster location in the parking lot; met the suggestions for the sidewalks which will involve some repaving to make it ADA accessible, and made several landscaping changes. There are still some work to be done on the actual tree choices but that is minor, Worthing said.
John Hodge, Brunswick Housing Authority director, said the building is designed so it can be used for assisting living down the road, which would consists of 24-hour care.
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