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News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, June 12, 2014
Blue Hill Board OKs South Street building; tenant still unknown

South Street, Blue Hill commercial building plan

An architect’s drawing at a May 2014 planning board hearing show views of a commercial building planned for South Street in Blue Hill. The drawings show an 8,000-square-foot building, but do not include an attached 1,600-square-foot space planned as part of the project. That omission caused the town’s planning board to rule that the application from the developer was not complete and to require that an accurate drawing be provided.

Photo by Rich Hewitt Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Rich Hewitt

Construction of a 9,600-square-foot commercial building on South Street will begin “immediately” now that the town’s planning board has approved the project.

The board on June 9 quickly reviewed an updated drawing of the proposed building that board members had required before they would approve the project. The original drawing had omitted a small adjacent section of the proposed building that was a part of the overall project.

There was little discussion of the project itself. Most questions had already been resolved at previous sessions. The board, however, did reopen a public hearing on the project and residents again asked about the proposed tenant for the building.

The issue of the tenant has been one that has dogged the project since it was initially proposed back in 2012. At that point, the tenant was widely rumored to be a Family Dollar store, since the developer, Tom Ellis, has built several similar buildings that have been occupied by that franchise. The board had issued a permit for the project, but legal issues delayed the start of construction and that original permit expired.

The second application submitted this spring was essentially the same as the first, but the developer still listed no prospective tenant. Last month, during the public hearing on the project, the developer’s representative, Oscar Emerson of Down to Earth Professional Land Service, said that while the Family Dollar had once been a likely tenant, things had changed and that company was building fewer new stores at this time.

On Monday, Emerson again said he knew of no tenant that had signed a lease for that property, and indicated that was not unusual. He noted that Ellis is currently building a project in Newport that is “almost identical” to the Blue Hill building and that he had only one tenant signed.

“The only tenant he has in there is Bangor Wine and Cheese and they’re located in the small space,” he said. “There are absolutely no tenants at this point.”

Judy Jenkins, the town’s code enforcement officer, also said that a prospective tenant generally does not sign a lease on a property until the developer has a permit to build the building.

The only question raised by the board during its review of the Commercial Site Plan Review criteria focused on the parking lot. Board members noted that whatever business went in there would have to conform to the parking and driveway entrance plan that had been submitted. Any changes, particularly to the entrances, would have to go to MDOT and back to the board for approval.

While the board members signed the permit, Emerson said that he expected construction to start immediately to make the most of the summer construction season. He had previously indicated construction would take the better part of a year.

The board also approved a permit for Creature Quarters, a dog day camp and overnight boarding facility. Carol Ann Cutler proposed to move her dog care business from its location in Brooklin to Kyle Tyler’s boat storage building on the Ellsworth Road.

Abutter Jesse Tyler raised concerns about the noise the dogs would make, and how the dog waste would be disposed of.

Cutler indicated that she intended to install fencing around the outside area that the dogs would use and that a portion of it would be a privacy fence. Board members suggested that extending the privacy fence along a longer portion of the property might limit the dog barking and also be a buffer for any noise that did occur.

The dog waste will be shoveled up, bagged and disposed of, she said.

There was some discussion about the use of a pond that straddles the property line between the proposed site and the Jesse Tyler property. That, however, was not part of the board’s review process.

There is an existing storm water problem on the property, but board chairman Peter d’Entremont noted that the proposed use of the building would not have an impact on that.