Planning Board gets unique plan for Brunswick Landing development

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BRUNSWICK — The outline of a $20 million development billed as a “gateway” to Brunswick Landing was presented Tuesday to the Planning Board.

The project, a joint enterprise between Topsham-based Priority Real Estate Group and the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, is sketched out in a first-of-its-kind Common Development Plan submitted to the planning office in May. 

Since then, the developers have been meeting regularly with the Planning Department to iron out details, before formally submitting their plan to the board.

Although the CDP process has been in the town’s zoning code for years, this is the first project to apply for one, Director of Planning and Development Anna Breinich said. 

“None of us have much experience at all with a common development plan,” Breinich told the board, noting that the criteria for reviewing CDPs was still fairly loose, compared to a site plan review.

In the CDP, Priority and MRRA broadly propose a common pattern of architecture, landscaping, signs and lighting along Bath Road, Admiral Fitch Drive and Pegasus Drive.

It also includes a plan for pedestrian and bicycle trails connecting the developments to one another and to a larger network of trails in town.

“What you’re doing is setting a framework for what will be developed down the road,” Breinich said. 

In an interview last month, Priority President Jim Howard said the company plans to build as many as eight new buildings on 19 acres clustered near the Brunswick Landing main entrance on Bath Road.

Individual developments within the CDP will still have to go through site plan or major development reviews, but the developers hope having a common design will streamline the process. 

If it gains Planning Board approval, MRRA plans to use the CDP as part of its marketing for parcels that haven’t already sold, said Steve Levesque, the authority’s executive director. 

A further advantage of the CDP is it allows developers to amend or ignore dimension standards that ordinarily apply in the MRRA redevelopment zone, Breinich explained. 

“The dimensional standards go away,” she said. A requirement that buildings along Admiral Fitch Avenue must have 80 percent road frontage is particularly onerous to developers, Breinich noted.

Priority and MRRA would eliminate that standard, as well as standards for front-yard sizes and building heights. 

The amended standards will apply to all developments within the CDP. 

At Tuesday’s workshop, Howard presented a plan for the first four buildings: a convenience store-gas station, 7,000-square-foot bank building, and 10,000-square-foot office building along Bath Road, and another 15,000-square-foot office building on the first parcel on Admiral Fitch Avenue.

Any retail stores in the CDP will be limited to banks or restaurants, and his company is not planning any chain stores, Howard told board members.

The two Bath Road buildings would have rear parking lots, connected to a side parking lot next to the building on Admiral Fitch Avenue. 

Planning Board member Soxna Dice asked if more green space could be added to the triangle of parking lots, saying it resembled a “vast wasteland of asphalt.”

Howard admitted that planning the developments near the Bath Road entrance has been “challenging,” but his company intends to preserve as much green space as possible and limit the number of mature trees it removes from the area.

Having an eyesore parking lot from some perspective is unavoidable, board Chairman Charles Frizzle said, noting that the developers had succeeded in masking what is seen from Bath Road.

In general, Frizzle offered his approval of the proposed CDP.

“I look forward to seeing what is going to come down the road,” Frizzle said. “… I think it is a great way to handle the gateway to what has become a major part of our community.”

Priority and MRRA intend to submit a final plan for board approval within the next few months. 

Also on Tuesday, the Planning Board approved a four-unit subdivision on Harpswell Road for Habitat for Humanity. 

The development outlines four single-family ranch-style homes. Construction is expected to begin this summer. 

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