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Bath Planning Board approves expansion of BIW Ultra Hall

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Bath Planning Board approves expansion of BIW Ultra Hall

BATH — The Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously approved two Bath Iron Works proposals, including expansion of its Ultra Hall facility.

The shipyard received site plan approval for the project, which will add a third bay to the south side of the Washington Street building. That approval is contingent on City Council support of contract rezoning for the project, according to City Planner Jim Upham. The council will likely discuss that matter at its meeting next month.

The addition will be 148 feet by 311 feet, while the existing facility, built in 2007, is about 280 feet by 235 feet. The new section will also be about 75 feet closer to Washington Street, Upham said.

“The reason that they want to do this, is that the more they can build parts of the ship indoors, the more efficient they are,” Upham said.

The addition, like the existing building, will be 106 feet tall. Since that height exceeds the 75-foot limit set by the city's zoning ordinance, it requires contract rezoning.

“Contract rezoning requires that an applicant ... does something that is over and above what is normally required,” Upham said.

In this case, BIW will give the city a piece of land, about 0.4 acres, which the shipyard now uses as an employee parking lot. The parcel is located downtown at the corner of Middle and Centre streets.

“This piece of land is something that the city has been interested in acquiring for some time now, because we think that having the city control the destiny of these BIW employee parking lots that are in the downtown is important for our future and our economic development," Upham said. "Someday in the future this could very well be a development site that the city put up for sale, and somebody redevelops it.”

For now, though, the parcel will remain a parking lot. BIW will lease the land from the city at no cost for the next five years, and continue to use it for parking. At that point the city could choose what next to do with the lot.

“We think this is a tremendous opportunity for the city,” Upham said.

He noted that the shipyard should have sufficient parking to make up for the loss of the lot.

BIW also received approval to demolish three old ship ways, from which vessels used to be launched, and pave the area in order to store ship units. Those units are currently being stored in the area where the third Ultra Hall bay is to be built.

Included in the project will be an underground treatment system to address existing runoff, “and an additional watershed area equal to the area to be disturbed by the construction of the third Ultra Hall bay before being discharged into the river,” according to Dan Nadeau, director of facilities.

As part of Planning Board approval, BIW will photograph the ship ways for historic documentation.

During the meeting the Planning Board also supported the creation of the Plant Home Zone and sent a recommendation of approval to the City Council. The zone will be based around the senior housing facility that opened at the southern end of Washington Street more than 90 years ago.

The new zone was recommended in Bath's most recent Comprehensive Plan update, adopted by the City Council in September.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.