Bath Planning Board extends talks on business park

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BATH — The Planning Board voted unanimously Tuesday to continue discussion again on a final subdivision application for the third phase of the Wing Farm Business Park.

Board members expressed a desire to hear more about plans for short-term improvements to the intersection of Congress Avenue and Centre Street, which leads into Wing Farm Parkway.

They also want to receive language for a condition of approval that would be written onto the subdivision plan and require that a traffic impact fee be charged as each lot in phases two and three are sold, in order to fund more long-term improvements at the intersection.

Project consultant Jeffrey Aceto of Sitelines approached the board last December with a request for final subdivision approval of the 25-acre, nine-lot phase, which will be built in West Bath. The Planning Board opted to continue the matter, and action on the request has now been postponed to the board’s March 2 meeting.

Although the lots are in West Bath, all the impact on roads will be in Bath.

“I think the Planning Board would be shirking its duty if it did not make sure that it knew how those impacts are going to be dealt with in the future,” City Planner Jim Upham said on Tuesday.

He said he wants the traffic impact fee for each new lot to be written onto the subdivision plan, “because I think that any other way that this is done leaves it too open for interpretation (and) collection of the fee. … I think that having both communities know (the impact fee) when the lots are sold is important. That’s the only way that this is going to be enforced.”

Wendy Johansen lives on the part of Centre Street – the west side of Congress Avenue – just before it becomes Wing Farm Parkway. She expressed concerns about the continuing impact of the business park project.

“We’ve lived on our property over 40 years, so none of the existing buildings were there,” she told the Planning Board. “The city has swallowed us up.”

Johansen noted that developments at the first Wing Farm phase draw many pedestrians. The road is dangerous, with a steep incline and a sidewalk that is rarely plowed, forcing people to walk in the street, she said.

“It’s quite narrow when you have the trucks going in and out, and you have quite a number of them every day,” Johansen said.

She noted that telephone poles and bushes present visual obstacles at the corner of Congress Avenue and Centre Street, and that vehicles on Congress Avenue put street-crossing pedestrians at risk. She suggested that a four-way stoplight be installed to improve pedestrian and driver safety.

Short-term fixes for the Congress Avenue and Centre Street intersection might include moving utility poles and trimming bushes in order to improve the site distance, Upham said.

He noted that larger fixes will occur when the city decides it is appropriate, whether it is at 50 percent completion of the second and third Wing Farm phases, or sooner. Upham said the impact fee will be a way to pay the city back for funding those improvements.

Traffic signals and a roundabout have been two options discussed for improving the safety of the intersection.

Aceto said the two municipalities are waiting for a traffic movement permit in April from the Maine Department of Transportation. That permit addresses extra traffic caused by both the second and third Wing Farm phases and is required when a project triggers more than 100 trips in a peak hour, such as 5-6 p.m. on a Friday. The permit follows a traffic study conducted around the Congress Avenue and Centre Street intersection.

Upham said traffic impacts from the next two Wing Farm phases are also anticipated at several the intersections on Congress Avenue.

Bath’s approval is also required because the existing King’s Highway that runs from Wing Farm Parkway in Bath into the West Bath phase will be improved. About 350 feet of that road, through which a sewer and water line will run, is in Bath.

The six lots of Wing Farm phase two are “shovel-ready” and are being marketed by the city, Upham said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or [email protected].

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.