BRUNSWICK — A plan to subdivide lots for future development at Brunswick Landing was approved with several caveats after much debate and some resistance.
The Planning Board approved Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority’s subdivision plan 3-1 Tuesday night, but only after the board set conditions and waived some requirements of the application.
“We got it approved, so we got that stuff out of the way,” Steve Levesque, MRRA executive director, said Wednesday. “Now we can go forward and sell some properties and get the private sector engaged with the redevelopment effort.”
Last week, Levesque said there are at least five major developments that are awaiting approval of the subdivision plan, which will divide about 225 acres of land into 43 lots for sale or lease.
Now, he said, it will only be a matter of weeks until some of the the first sales or leases happen. But MRRA will first have to satisfy some of the conditions set by the Planning Board before its application is deemed complete.
Some of the plan’s conditions will require MRRA to do extra work for the subdivided lots within a specific time period, while others will require future developers who purchase or lease the lots to conduct site reviews.
“We enumerated several lots that have to come back no matter what – if they’re going to put a shovel in the ground, if they have applied for building,” Town Planner Jeremy Doxsee said after the plan was approved. “There are a number of lots that are almost fully built out – they have existing buildings on them – and they’re not required to come back to the Planning Board per se, but only if they rise to the threshold listed in the zoning ordinance.”
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, MRRA’s subdivision plan had undergone several revisions based on feedback from the Planning Board.
In the two meetings leading to the Planning Board’s final decision, the dissenting Planning Board member, Steve Walker, insisted that MRRA’s plan did not satisfy some of the environmental requirements of the town’s zoning ordinance.
His tone remained largely the same Tuesday night.
“I think that this has been a messy process and somewhat of a disappointment,” said Walker, who is a wildlife biologist at Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “It’s been six years to prepare, six years to get the field work right and six years without many changes to our ordinance, so it was pretty clear the path forward that MRRA had to take on this one. But yet we still had to do these last-minute contortions with waivers and conditions of approval.”
Some residents also raised concerns.
Suzanne Johnson, a resident representative of the U.S. Navy’s Restoration Advisory Board, echoed Walker’s concerns, but focused on groundwater contamination at the former naval air base.
“The submission by MRRA frankly is lacking in some important information that’s going to be needed as we move forward with this property years from now,” Johnson said. “The unique thing about some of this land is the groundwater exists very shallowly beneath the soil, so anyone who’s doing the simple task of planting landscaping may have the risk of coming into contact with groundwater.”
Responding to the criticism, Levesque said most of the groundwater is offsite on land still owned by the U.S. Navy, and not part of the subdivision.
“That is an active situation where they are actually pumping the groundwater, putting it through a treatment facility and then re-injecting that groundwater, but it’s currently not part of that subdivision,” Levesque said.