CAPE ELIZABETH — After four years of meetings, Lee Wilson can start formalizing business plans for the yellow Victorian house at 553 Shore Road. The Planning Board Tuesday approved her site plan 5-1.
Wilson’s process began when she advocated for changes to the Comprehensive Plan which recommended including her property in the Business-A zone, and included almost a year of meetings to get the zoning changed and most recently several months of site planning and review. Wilson hadn’t dared plan anything prior to the Planning Board’s final decision, she said Tuesday, because she feared neighborhood opposition might remain strong.
But at the public hearing Tuesday, neighbor David Sanford – a direct abutter and one of those most vocally opposed to the project over the past year – expressed his thanks for Wilson’s willingness to take his household’s needs into consideration. She hadn’t solved everything, he said, “but basically, we’ve reached as much of an agreement as we can possibly manage.”
Wilson also tried to accommodate needs of the second abutter, Jane Waning, as well as other concerned Charles Road residents.
Those agreements, which architect John Mitchell said were key to this project’s forward momentum, included plans to erect a fence between Wilson’s business and both abutting properties, as well as planting hemlocks and lilacs to increase the buffer with the Sanfords. Wilson also agreed to pay for a crosswalk over Shore Road between the Fire Station and former Cookie Jar, where her employees will park, and will remove a concrete pathway on Waning’s property and prepare it with loam for planting.
Though several Planning Board members, including Beth Richardson, felt the last agreement was “more than accommodating,” Wilson said afterward it was the least she could do.
“Jane is a lovely lady,” Wilson said after the meeting, “she deserves to feel more at peace with what’s going on.” And if preparing a small gardening area was going to help ease Waning’s transition from neighboring a home to neighboring a mixed-use building with a business on the first floor, it didn’t bother Wilson.
Wilson said she hopes all the neighbors are feeling better than they have over the last year, during which Ordinance Committee, Planning Board, and Town Council meetings about the project were often marked by strong opposition from Charles Road residents.
Mitchell agreed, and hoped that when renovations are completed, “they’ll realize this is an asset to the neighborhood.”
Wilson said she wasn’t sure when those renovations would begin, but they include widening the driveway entrance from 10 to 18 feet to accommodate two-way traffic, paving and marking six parking spaces in the current driveway area, constructing a brick walkway along Shore Road and up to the front door, and planting along the southwestern property line and along the walkway.
Wilson’s interior plans include opening a small boutique on the first floor, leasing out one or two small office suites on the second floor, and finishing a studio apartment on the third.
The Planning Board Tuesday voted 5-1 to approve the site plan. Board member Thomas Dolan was the only one opposed, citing disapproval of the parking plan. Wilson was required to include 10 spaces, but has only six on her property, which Dolan felt was insufficient. Four others will be leased in a lot across the street, and will be used primarily by employees and upper floor tenants.
Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.