Members of the Planning Board, along with a few residents, took a walk on the proposed Tractor Supply site April 24, getting the lay of the land across Route 3 from the Bank of America complex.

Tractor Supply Co., a national chain that specializes in agricultural products, has proposed to build a 20,000-square-foot store on a piece of undeveloped land across from Bank of America.

The new store would occupy 6 acres of the 84-acre parcel, which is owned by B&G Properties, an entity of New Hampshire father-and-son developers Bob and Gary Bahre.

DMK Development plans to develop the 6-acre "chunk" of the property at 45 Belmont Ave., and Gorrill Palmer Engineers were hired to design the layout.

At a Feb. 12 joint meeting, Belfast City Council and the Planning Board voted to approve this project's proceeding to the preliminary plan review stage. The site walk and public hearing April 24 were a continuation of the board's April 10 review meeting.

Lucas Anthony of Gorrill Palmer Engineers led the group through the gently elevating field and stopped at stakes placed in the ground, matching them to a map and illustrating where the building and parking lot would be.

The entrance for the proposed store, off Route 3, is situated opposite Schoodic Drive, according to Anthony's elevation diagram. An area of large, mature trees makes up a "buffer" section adjacent to the road, which the entrance would traverse. On the diagram, that section is noted: "Clear and remove trees to the least extent practical during construction." 

Director of Codes and Planning Wayne Marshall said early in the walk, "The whole point is to try and save as many trees as possible."

Two small retention ponds are planned on the easterly side, near the road, to manage stormwater runoff and erosion, and to improve water quality flowing to a nearby culvert, ultimately becoming "a tributary to the Little River," Anthony said.

"It's all downhill to Route 3, all the way," he said. "No ledge or boulders."

The water percolates through a couple of layers to improve its quality, he said. This application meets the "quality and quantity" specified by the city of Belfast and Department of Environmental Protection and achieves a gradual "lower rate of discharge."

The size of the ponds and the quantity (perhaps one bigger pond) were questioned. Anthony said DEP would have the ultimate say, though the department probably would not take aesthetics into account and the outcome might not necessarily be what the city finds pleasing.

One board member said the current stormwater plan is a "standalone development" that does not take into account any further development on the 84-acre site, which would need to addressed.

Other property owners have been approached, Anthony said, telling them how their stormwater would be impacted. "They are aware of this," he said.

The 19,097-foot store design does not deviate much from standards in other stores in the Tractor Supply chain. The parking lot,with 77 spaces, would be located in front of the store, while to the right of the building would be a large, fenced outdoor display area.

Anthony said some "significant upgrades" setting this store apart would be multiple siding materials, faux barn doors and minimized use of the company's red brand color.

One board member asked if they would consider changing the layout, to which Anthony replied, "We would like to keep the basic layout fairly static. We don't have a lot of wiggle room with our layout."

Anthony spoke of a traffic study conducted on the section of road at the intersection of Schoodic Drive and Route 3 and said the numbers did not warrant an additional turning lane. Currently there is a left-turning lane on the westbound side, turning into Bank of America.

"A left turn lane could be accommodated later on," he said.

Two residents weighed in during the public hearing part of a meeting later at City Hall.

Belinda Pendleton said she grew up on nearby Crocker Road and appreciates the board keeping trees that retain original growth. She encouraged the planting of native species, including the weeping willow.

The area had many apple trees 30 years ago, she said, asking if it would be possible to have one or two apple trees in the design. She wondered if the wood harvested from the construction site could be given to the Waldo County Woodshed, a nonprofit group that works to provide free firewood for people in need in the Waldo County.

Belfast resident Joanne Moesswilde said she was not "wild" about the project and about paving over 80 acres of farmland. She said she would like to see businesses come to Belfast and take up already existing spaces.

"I find it ironic putting a Tractor Supply store on a perfectly good piece of farmland," she said.

The next Planning Board meeting tentatively dealing with the Tractor Supply development site will be Wednesday, May 22, at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall.