Bath council to tackle contract rezoning, outdoor burners

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BATH — The City Council next month will make final decisions on a contract rezoning for a new coffee shop and a decision on outdoor wood burners.

Both items received unanimous City Council passage Sept. 5, and will return for second and final votes Wednesday, Oct. 3.

Aroma Joe’s franchisee Mike Pelletier wants to construct a new 790-square-foot building on about a third of acre at 137 Leeman Highway (U.S. Route 1). The drive-through coffee bar would include a walk-up service window.

“Aroma Joe’s operations are very focused on drive-through activity; we’re not a come-in-and-sit-down kind of an establishment,” Pelletier told the council.

The property is in Bath’s U.S. Route 1 Commercial Contract Zone, and requires contract rezoning to meet yard area and setback requirements, Planning Director Ben Averill said in an Aug. 29 memo to the council.

“This site is very restrictive and very tight as it stands right now, so the only real way to utilize the site would be to engage in contract zoning,” he told the panel Sept. 5. “It’s definitely not going to be able to work width-wise or length-wise without the contract rezoning that we’re requesting.”

Without the rezoning, the minimum yard areas would be 20 feet around the parcel. Because of the size of the parcel and site configuration, Pelletier proposes to construct the drive-thru queuing lane and parking area in the yard area, which necessitates contract rezoning, Averill said.

In return for the city granting the rezoning, DeWick would narrow Quimby Street and close off access points from the property to Leeman Highway, boosting safety for pedestrians and motorists; install lighting along the Route 1 corridor, and incorporate improved streetscape elements like a bike rack and sidewalk, according to Averill.

The Planning Board on July 10 recommended the council approve the proposal.

The earliest that ground could be broken is Oct. 24, and site work and construction could take about four months, Pelletier said.

Wood burners

When the City Council in May approved new and revised state fire codes  – the Life Safety Code and Uniform Fire Code – a section that included a ban on outdoor wood boilers and outdoor furnaces was inadvertently deleted, according to an Aug. 30 memo from Davis to the council.

The prohibition was “a separate standalone ordinance,” not part of the codes the council adopted, City Solicitor Roger Therriault noted in an Aug. 28 memo to the council.

The city had enacted the prohibition in 2007 “to protect properties in Bath from the impacts on these boilers,” Davis said.

The units have stacks that are lower than a house chimney, and consequently emit smoke that hangs near the ground, where it can have impact on surrounding properties, particularly given the dense development of much of Bath, Davis explained.

“We may want to revisit the ban someday, and see if new technology has made these boilers emit less smoke, and/or disperse it better than the old boilers did,” he added. “To do that properly will take some time, and (has) to be done very thoroughly.”

The council unanimously reinstated the ban, depending on final passage next month.

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.