Bath planners OK apartments at former hospital
BATH — Fifteen residences will be developed at a former hospital at 9 Park St., after the project received unanimous subdivision and site plan approvals Tuesday from the Planning Board.
The city purchased the property more than a decade ago as the Mid Coast Center for Higher Education, and sold it to developer Robert Smith of Phippsburg for $799,000 last May. The site is zoned Residential 2, which allows a residential density of 9,000 square feet per dwelling.
"I think that the Planning Board was very thoughtful," Smith said on Wednesday. "They certainly considered my feelings, but they also considered the neighbors' feelings."
He said he has reached out to neighbors who have concerns.
"I said, 'If you have any concerns with any of the tenants ... call me, and I'm within a five-minute ride anytime,'" Smith said.
He said the apartments could be available by the end of September.
Smith earlier this year wanted the city to change the zoning to Residential 1, which includes buildings across the street and allows dwellings of 6,000 square feet. The Planning Board tabled the item at the time.
But Smith's latest proposal conforms to existing zoning. He is allowed to develop 30 residential units, but for now is requesting 15.
His original proposal "would be only a residential use, and I'm trying to develop the property into a mixed use," he said July 11. "... I certainly don't want to have any more apartments than I have to. It costs a lot of money to convert it, and (takes) a lot of time."
There has been some interest from commercial tenants in occupying the other space, Smith said.
The Planning Board, which voted unanimously last week to continue discussion to Tuesday, wanted more information on generation rates for sanitary sewer and traffic, City Planner Andrew Deci said.
The neighborhood has experienced flooding and combined sewer overflow issues, so some members expressed concern that any development not contribute to those problems, he explained.
"It's, I think, a pretty well-accepted fact that this proposal is not going to increase those generation rates, but the Planning Board wants to see those details," which prove that to the community, the planner said.
One condition of Planning Board approval is that before any occupancy permits are issued, Smith must remove tree limbs or clear vegetation on the west side of Washington Street, to improve sight lines for drivers on Park Street.
Smith noted in March that nearby residents had expressed "serious questions," and that Planning Board members did not want to lose the neighborhood feeling along Park Street. He said he shared that concern.
The apartments would be offered at market rate, smoking and dogs would not be allowed, and Smith's office would be on site, the developer said at the time. The exterior would not be changed, and work on the structure would be kept to the interior. A community garden could be added, he said, if there is room.
"There's a need for nice apartments (in Bath)," Smith said, "and that's what these would be. ... I want people to want to live here, not have to live here."
The city's sale of the building last year drew sharp criticism from several residents, who claimed the city failed to practice due diligence when it set the sale price, and did not sell the parcel in an appropriate way.
The City Council hired a former Maine Superior Court judge to investigate the process. He found that while the city should have been more transparent about the sale, there was no corruption.