BELFAST — After a lengthy discussion that included comments from several residents, the In-Town Design Review Committee voted to modify its previous approval of a design review permit of a garage for the Belfast Water District to add a new condition to the permit.

The Water District had previously presented a proposal to construct a six-bay garage on property the district owns at 41 Wight St. during the committee’s June 13 meeting, the design of which was unanimously approved.

During the committee’s July 18 meeting, seven residents of the Tara Mews community, which abuts the Water District’s property, spoke in opposition to the committee’s previous permit approval. The Tara Mews residents had lodged complaints regarding the June 13 meeting, as they were not notified of the hearing even though they are abutters to the property. The July 18 meeting was called to give those residents a chance to voice their concerns regarding the proposed garage.

Resident Cary Slocum said that Tara Mews LLC received a notification of the June 13 meeting, but none of the condo owners had received similar notices, adding that residents were in the dark regarding the original proceeding.

Tara Mews resident David Boyer said he and his partner Sara Shute own a property on Kerry Gardens. Boyer said the character of Belfast is what draws new residents and tourists to the town. He said when the current structure located at 41 Wight St. was built, it did not visually change the character of the neighborhood, having been built to resemble other homes in the area. He said the building of a six-bay garage would change the residential nature of the neighborhood and, with each change, an increased likelihood of other similar buildings.

Resident Sara Shute told the committee that it was not following its own standards and allowing the building of the garage would degrade Wight Street and the surrounding community.

“Our general criticism is that the garage is not visually compatible (with the neighborhood),” she said. She said she and others who wished to challenge the process had a large amount of difficulty in trying to learn the process to get their objections to the project heard. She noted that the rules for notification were not followed, adding that citizen input on such projects is important and necessary.

Resident Kathleen Gray suggested possibly having the Water District build a smaller garage. She asked whether the building could be scaled down to include only three or four bays. She also said the proposed garage is not visibly compatible with the building currently located at 41 Wight St. and asked if the committee could act as arbiters in the dispute between residents and the Water District.

Michelle Henrion, like Shute, said she found getting information about the proposed project to be challenging. She said the whole process has been upsetting and difficult. She said she feels like a garage the size of the fire station would have a negative impact on the overall look of Wight Street. She urged the committee to help residents maintain the beauty and character of their neighborhood.

Resident Marianne McKinney-Randall said she was also shocked to learn the building was being considered. She said when she and her husband discovered what was going on, they did everything they could to educate themselves on the process. She then showed several photos of the back of the garage, noting that she and her husband would have to look at that building from their porch instead of their current view.

Gene Randall reiterated the views of several other residents, saying the proposed garage is not appropriate to the community.

“This garage does not have a neighborhood feel at all,” he said.

After the residents spoke about the garage, the Water District’s attorney Andy Hamilton of Eaton Peabody got up to speak on the district’s position. Gene Randall objected on behalf of the residents, saying the Water District already had its say before the committee.

Belfast City Planner Jon Boynton said the district’s attorney has the right to speak as the applicant, and the committee agreed.

Hamilton then focused the committee’s attention on Belfast’s Code of Ordinances, specifically those to be considered by the committee. He said he drove into the Tara Mews neighborhood and that from his vantage point, could not see into the back of the Water District’s property. He then told the committee that many of the issues raised by residents were not under the purview of the committee and that their only determination was in the appearance and size of the proposed structure. This led to several residents wishing to be heard to refute Hamilton’s statement that the back of the property could not be seen by residents.

Engineer Randy Butler of Dirigo Engineering, who has been working with the Water District on the project, said the Belfast Planning Board had made one of its conditions that the Water District plant evergreen trees to help block the view in the northwest corner of the property. He said the building was specifically designed so that it wouldn’t stand out. He then said that in determining whether the garage met the requirement that it be visually related to other structures in the area, it should be noted that there are several different types of building materials and visual aspects to structures in the area.

After more discussion, Hamilton and some of the residents left the meeting room to determine if they could come to some agreement. When they returned the agreement that was reached was that the building would have vinyl siding from somewhere around 3 to 5 feet off the ground, up to the top, in the same color as the existing building (yellow). It was also agreed that a dormer would be placed above the two central doors of the garage in the front. The committee then voted to make those agreements part of the conditions of granting the design permit by a unanimous 4-0 vote.