Bath Planning Board delays retirement home expansion talks

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BATH — The Planning Board on Tuesday delayed action on items required to allow expansion of the 96-year-old Plant Home retirement community.

The Washington Street facility houses 37 private apartments in a main building, and has 11 apartments in five duplexes and one single-occupant structure. The home wants to build a three-story, 48,000-square-foot building to house 45 more units. It would tear down four of the duplexes and build two triplexes in their place.

In order to do this, the home needs site plan, developmental subdivision and contract rezoning approvals. The Planning Board can recommend action on the contract rezoning, but the City Council must make the final decision; the Planning Board’s site plan and subdivision approvals would be contingent on the council’s acceptance of the contract rezoning.

Don Capoldo, executive director of the Plant Home, said the expansion in part will allow the facility to get its ratio of market-rate, private-pay residents to subsidized units “more in line with a figure that can sustain us in perpetuity.”

Thirty-two of its current apartments are for low-income residents, Capoldo said; the new building will contain all market-rate units.

The city has also expressed a significant need for elderly housing, he said.

The expansion “just seemed to be the appropriate thing to do. It will allow the home to last in perpetuity, we can use the profits from the new building to subsidize more people without going into the principal of our endowment, and the city of Bath will have more apartments to keep their elders here,” Capoldo said.

In tabling discussion to its Aug. 20 meeting, the Planning Board said it wants outstanding issues to be addressed, including easements that provide for the sharing of utilities such as water and sewer, and setbacks.

Contract rezoning requires a public benefit in exchange, and the Plant Home has in part offered an undeveloped 1.3-acre parcel between the Wing Farm Business Park and Ranger Circle to a group or organization that wants to assume stewardship of the property for open space and recreational purposes.

The Plant Home has also shown willingness to provide public access on the Kennebec River, and the board wants to see the terms governing access.

City staff will also look at site distances between East Lane and Washington Street, to ensure there will be safe turning movements from East Lane onto Washington Street.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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.