Falmouth ‘gourmet getaway’ runs into permit problems

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FALMOUTH — A plan to use a Woodville Road mansion as an events venue and culinary retreat is on hold because the property doesn’t have necessary permits.

The Mirabelle mansion, a 12,000-square-foot estate at 200 Woodville Road, is owned by neurosurgeon Marc Christensen. The estate was built in the early 1990s as a retreat for the head of Shaw’s supermarkets.

Christensen bought the property about 18 months ago, with the idea to turn it into a bed and breakfast that also hosts other events, including weddings and what one report called a “gourmet getaway for well-heeled urbanites.”

But the mansion is not permitted to be more than a residence.

Amanda Howland, marketing director for Mirabelle, said the operators have had discussions with Justin Brown, the town’s code enforcement officer, since May about the bed and breakfast.

“We’ve been in touch a bunch of times as we came up with questions,” Howland said.

Brown, meanwhile, said he met with Christensen on Tuesday to discuss uses of the property.

He said Christensen is expected to apply for conditional use approval for a home occupation. Additionally, to get approval for a bed and breakfast, he said Christensen will have to go through the Board of Zoning Appeals for conditional use approval, and the Planning Board for site plan approval.

Brown said he also recommended Christensen contact the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the state fire marshall’s office, “as I suspect a number of these uses may require additional approvals or even upgrades to the property.”

In a letter dated Monday, Sept. 21, provided to The Forecaster by the code enforcement officer, Brown also told Christensen there have been no conditional uses or variances for use of the property from the town, and any use not permitted in the district must immediately cease.

He said Christensen may appeal to the BZA within 30 days.

Howland said there have not been any events hosted at the mansion. Although as of Sept. 21 the website said Mirabelle would serve as a wedding venue, Howland said that is no longer the case. The photos used on the website were not from actual events, she said, and the “website hasn’t quite caught up as the vision has evolved.”

“We haven’t had any events, we wouldn’t do that without permitting,” Howland said. “We’re working within what seems realistic, looking at the requirements needed to be a bed and breakfast. … We appear to meet all criteria, and we’re hoping it won’t be an issue.”

One of the events proposed for the property is a culinary weekend, which Howland said will include demonstrations and lessons with local chefs. Weekend retreats and longer vacations are also planned. Howland said there will be plenty of parking for customers, and that at any given time there would be “very few people” at the mansion.

“We want most of all to be respectful of the neighborhood and not impact the neighborhood in any way that’s detrimental,” she said.

Howland said the original goal was to have Mirabelle – which has seven bedrooms, three kitchens, a ballroom, a pool, a basketball court, a batting cage, and other amenities – in business by October, but said the start date will depend on what the town decides to do.

“If we have to push things back a little then that’s what we’ll do,” she said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

The Mirabelle mansion on Woodville Road in Falmouth was slated to open as a bed and breakfast with other activities in October. A lack of permits has slowed the process.

A Mirabelle representative said owners have been in discussion with the town since May about meeting the requirements of a bed and breakfast.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.