Bath council OKs 2 development hurdles for new CVS store

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BATH — The City Council on Wednesday granted first passage to a land use code map amendment and contract rezoning for a CVS drug store, which hopes to move to a new building at Court and Floral streets.

CVS seeks to relocate from the Bath Shopping Center to a 1.8-acre site on the northeast corner of the intersection. Four buildings there would be demolished to make way for the 13,225-square-foot store, City Planner Andrew Deci said Wednesday.

Along with site plan approval, the proposal has also required OKs on a land use code map amendment and contract rezoning. The area of Court and Floral streets consists of Residential 1 and Commercial 2 zones, but CVS needs a Commercial 4 zone in order to operate a drive-through pharmacy, according to Deci.

Contract zone approval is required because the new building would infringe into the setback and yard areas of the Commercial 4 zone, he said. In exchange for being granted the contract zone, the applicant has proposed to provide several public benefits, such as giving the city $35,000 for improvements to U.S. Route 1, or creating a deceleration lane from Route 1 into Chandler Drive.

The council voted 5-2, with Councilors Steve Brackett and David Sinclair opposed, to grant the land use code map amendment. Brackett expressed concern that the city’s Comprehensive Plan calls for commercial buildings to be no larger than 7,000 square feet, smaller than the proposed drug store.

Councilor Tink Mitchell said he felt the building design had a low profile, and that “it seems to fit into that particular spot rather well” and would create a minimal impact on the Residential 1 zone, particularly with good buffering.

Concerning the greater square footage of the building versus the Comprehensive Plan’s recommendation, Mitchell noted that the plan is just a guideline, “and it … gives us an idea of what they were thinking at the time that this was put together, what might be acceptable and what may not.”

The dollar amount attached to the contract zone agreement dominated that portion of the discussion. The council voted 6-1, with Councilor Andy Winglass opposed, to raise the required funding from $35,000 to $50,000. Winglass said $50,000 was too low, with which Sinclair and Brackett agreed.

Sinclair’s motion to then raise the figure to $140,000 received no second, after which Winglass’s proposal for $70,000 – double the original $35,000 – received unanimous support.

The panel ultimately voted 5-2 for the contract zone, with Sinclair and Councilor Meadow Rue Merrill opposed. Sinclair expressed appreciation for the city’s additional monetary reward, but said, “I still, when I look at the project proposed in the aggregate, don’t see a benefit to the city. If anything, I see a potential loss.”

He said he has nothing against CVS, but that the new building would not enhance Bath’s unique character, but rather “waters that down.”

The Planning Board had voted Oct. 7 on all three items, although the rezoning and contract zone approvals could only be recommendations to the council, which makes the final decision on such matters.

The board voted 3-3 on the rezoning, with members Jim Hopkinson, John Sunderland and John Swenson voting in favor, and Andy Omo, Bob Oxton and Cal Stilphen against. At least four votes in favor were needed to count as a affirmative recommendation to the council.

The board also voted 4-2 to recommend the council’s approval of a contract zone, and also 4-2 in favor of the site plan. Stilphen and Oxton opposed the motions in both votes.

Bath’s Comprehensive Plan has very specific standards for that area of the city, “and some Planning Board members felt that the standards just were not met explicitly,” Deci explained on Wednesday. “Others felt that the intent to those standards was met.”

The council will vote on the matter a second and final time Nov. 5.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.