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Developer proposes $20M in construction at Brunswick Landing

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Developer proposes $20M in construction at Brunswick Landing

BRUNSWICK — A Topsham developer is hoping to gain Planning Board approval for a 19-acre, mixed-use development at Brunswick Landing.

Priority Real Estate's proposed development, expected to cost $20 million, includes plans for a gas station, bank, restaurant, office and retail space and a veterinary clinic.

In all, at least eight new buildings with attached parking are slated for construction on Bath Road and Admiral Fitch Avenue, near the main entrance of the former U.S. Navy base.

The proposal is outlined in Priority's application for a Common Development Plan, a previously unused provision in Brunswick's zoning ordinance.

The project, which is expected to go in front of the Planning Board July 1, is the most substantial part of a $27 million development announced by Priority last year.

The project will be financed by Priority, and the company does not intend to apply for funding through the base's tax increment financing district or from state agencies, Priority President Jim Howard said in an interview last week.

The company plans to complete construction and have all spaces leased to customers by the end of 2016, he said.

Completing the project on such an ambitious timetable could hinge on approval of the company's Common Development Plan, a zoning ordinance provision that allows the Planning Board to approve an overall design plan for large developments that include multiple buildings and lots. 

Priority's application outlines consistent themes such as parking lots to the side or rear of buildings, coordinated landscaping with iron fences, shrubs, flowering trees, and building siding that features New England-style materials like clapboard and brick.

But design continuity isn't the only reason developers Priority is attracted to Brunswick's CDP. 

The provision also allows the board to waive zoning rules in the district that covers Brunswick Landing, explained Town Planner Jeremy Doxsee.

The allowance is included in a footnote of the dimension and density table for Brunswick's land use districts.

"It's worth pointing out that this footnote is actually what gives the CDP its teeth," Doxsee said in an email. Otherwise, he continued, CDP regulations "would be worthless to developers" because they do not provide for waiving zoning rules.

For example, Priority is asking to eliminate requirements for minimum and maximum building frontage, front yard size and minimum building height for the proposed buildings along Admiral Fitch Avenue. 

The zoning rules currently require new buildings to have a minimum 80 percent road frontage, severely limiting the type of structures that can be built along the broad avenue, Doxsee noted.

Relaxing those regulations could allow the developer to move more swiftly through the site plan review process for the new buildings, Doxsee suggested, because each would not require separate zoning rule changes.

Priority is certainly hoping so. According to Howard, the company believes it may be able to shave three to six months off time lines for new construction within the CDP.

Because it is working with this type of application for the first time, the Planning Department is proceeding "cautiously" with the application, Doxsee said.

Priority was  expected to present its application to the board this week, but delayed its presentation following a May 28 meeting with Planning Department staff. 

According to Howard, the company will update its proposal to address questions raised at the meeting about a proposed bicycle path through the property, the height of a convenience store sign and traffic flow through the development.

Howard said he was prompted to turn to new construction because Brunswick Landing is rapidly running out of appropriate building stock.

The former base still provides a "golden opportunity" to developers because of its existing sewer, water and electrical infrastructure, airport access, highway proximity and development-ready land, which is becoming a rare commodity in southern Maine, Howard said.

“If this wasn't available, we couldn't do $25 million worth of projects in Brunswick because there would be nowhere to put them,” he said.

According to Howard, Priority has already secured tenants for the gas station and veterinary office, and plans to begin those projects immediately if its CDP receives Planning Board approval.

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.