Planning board approves construction of three-story building on Seabreeze Lane property

By Ben Holbrook | Jun 03, 2014

Belfast — Members of the planning board approved a proposal by a Seabreeze Lane couple to demolish an existing building and replace it with a larger structure despite concerns from several neighbors.

An application filed by Lewis and Linda Baker went before the planning board May 28 for review in regards to a proposal to demolish an existing house at 1 Seabreeze Lane and replace it with a three-story building.

The existing structure on the property is legally nonconforming in regards to minimum rear and side setback requirements.

As proposed, Lewis Baker said the three-story building would be an accessory structure to his existing home with recreational/family room space on the third floor and storage on the second floor. Baker denied allegations from some neighbors that the new and larger building would be used for his commercial auto-body repair business, citing city ordinances that would prevent such a use.

The use of the building, as well as the size, were a source of concern for many of the neighbors who spoke during a public hearing on the proposed application. First to speak was Nancy Hamilton, a member of the council and neighboring property owner, who voiced a number of concerns about the project.

Hamilton said the proposed three-story structure was not a good fit for the neighborhood, noting most of the homes in the area were one or two stories in height. She also pointed out that a design plan has not been submitted so neighbors do not know what the building will look like. Finally, Hamilton raised the concern that the structure may serve as a way for Baker to expand his repair business and that she she has no confidence the building will be constructed in a timely manner.

A handful of other neighbors echoed similar concerns, mainly related to the proposed size of the structure. Bob Roxby, who said he recently moved into the neighborhood, said he would like to see improvements made to the existing structure that would be demolished and asked whether there are limits on enlarging a nonconforming building or on how much of a lot can be covered with a building.

Once the public hearing ended, Assistant City Planner Sadie Lloyd said the planning office received two comments from neighbors who supported the demolition of the existing house and construction of a larger building.

Responding to comments made by neighbors concerned about the project, Baker said he wants a three-story building because over the years he has lost his views of the water that he once had. He also reiterated that he would not use the new structure for commercial purposes.

“I have no intention to do any business in that structure,” he said.

At the request of members of the planning board, City Planner Wayne Marshall addressed questions about the time frame allowed for constructing a new building. Marshall said if the planning board approves the project and Baker receives a building permit, he will have one year to begin construction once the existing building is demolished. Once construction has begun, Baker has two years to complete the project; however, Marshall pointed out that Baker could renew his building permit to allow for more time to construct the building.

Planning Board member Roger Pickering, who was acting as chairman during deliberations on the application as regular chairman Paul Hamilton had recused himself, asked Lloyd and Marshall if there were any height restrictions in the zone where Baker would be building. Marshall explained there are no height restrictions under the current zoning ordinances for the property, nor was there a lot-coverage standard that would apply in regards to the application.

Pickering then asked for clarification on what the board would be voting to do. He asked if the board would be granting a permit or simply approving the project. Lloyd said if the board approved the project it would allow Baker to then get a building permit to construct the new building.

After a few more points of clarification, board members voted to approve the project.

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