BRUNSWICK — The proposed downtown headquarters for Coastal Enterprises reached another milestone Tuesday night when the Village Review Board approved two certificates of appropriateness necessary for moving forward.
Demolition of two former municipal buildings on Federal Street received a unanimous vote from the board, while construction of CEI’s two-story, nearly 22,000-square-foot building received a 4-2 vote after debate by the board and mixed public feedback.
CEI needed demolition and construction certificates from the board because the proposed building is within the town’s Village Review Zone, which was created to ensure future development is compatible with the historic character of the downtown district.
Construction approval was granted only after several conditions were added. One of the conditions will seek the town attorney’s opinion on whether a proposed side parking lot for the building is allowed by the town’s zoning ordinance.
CEI had already modified its building plans, based on previous public feedback, to incorporate exterior brick into a design that was mostly clapboard, plus some other changes, including an entrance from Federal Street.
John Egan, CEI’s director of housing, said after the meeting that the changes would add about $310,000 to the project’s $5.8 million budget. The project costs include “construction, all finance costs, demolition, acquisition, all soft costs, contingency, interior fit up and the move itself,” he said.
Egan said said getting financing for the increased project costs could be “really hard.”
“All of those costs get added on,” he said, “but the bank isn’t going to loan me any more money because they’re basically loaning against the appraisal, so all of these other additions are on top of what is going to be in the bank financing.”
CEI has been planning to consolidate its Wiscasset and Portland offices, along with around 60 employees, at 28 and 30 Federal St., where the former Town Hall and Recreation Center are located.
The nonprofit financial institution has signed a purchase option with Brunswick Development Corp., which is receiving the two properties from the town under separate agreements. The sale, which is subject to CEI’s due diligence, including the needed town approvals, is expected to close by the end of June.
The conditions added for approval of the construction certification require CEI to modify its plans for a canopy, add brick to break up the structure’s overall visual mass, select black metal fencing that meets the approval of the Planning and Development Department, and have the Planning Board monitor the impact of parking lot lights on the surrounding neighborhood.
Board member Connie Lundquist, who requested the parking lot oversight and voted against the construction certificate, said she disagreed with the staff’s finding of facts that the side parking lot is permitted. She referred to a provision in the Village Review Zone section of the town’s zoning ordinance that prohibits parking lots “in side and front yards” for new construction of commercial buildings.
“We can’t say yes if it violates the ordinance,” she said. “That’s my problem and I’m quite uncomfortable voting until I know.”
Planning and Development Director Anna Breinich said because the side parking lot already exists, the non-conforming portion of the lot would be able to stay where it is, based on another provision of the town’s zoning ordinance and a conversation she had with the code enforcement officer.
Board member Laura Lienert, who also opposed the construction certificate, said she doesn’t think CEI’s design proposal for a 21st century office building is compatible with Federal Street’s character.
She made references to recent letters from Earle Shettleworth, president of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, who expressed similar concerns.
“To be clear, I’m not sure that Brunswick needs to accommodate CEI’s image,” she said. “I think CEI rather should accommodate our design standards and guidelines, the standards and guidelines that speak to the character of Brunswick.”
Board Chairwoman Emily Swan recused herself from the discussion before it began because she said she holds a community investment from with CEI.