City Council raises Washington Street building height, discusses parking changes

By Kendra Caruso | Feb 11, 2020
Source: File photo

Belfast — City Council voted to raise the building height restriction on Washington Street from 48 feet to 60 feet for a new development that would add apartment, office and retail spaces.

Local property owner Paul Overgaag submitted a proposal at the Feb. 4 meeting for a new building that would extend above what is currently allowed under the area’s height code.

Local architecture firm OPAL created depictions of what the building might look like, but Codes and Planning Director Wayne Marshall said the design is subject to change. Marshall noted that there has not been a new private development downtown in more than 22 years.

One resident spoke out against the construction out of concern that the downtown area might lose green space. She thought it was a development that might appeal to tourists rather than residents.

Marshall displayed a large historic photo of downtown Belfast in the early 20th century for City Council. He noted that the area was much more congested with buildings. More recently, he said, the building height throughout downtown was 60 feet until 2014.

Washington Street would become one-way after the parking lot entrance to better control the flow of traffic on what Marshall described as a narrow road.

Tax revenue generated from this project could go into fixing public property in the area; for example, installing public sewer pipes, storm drains, replacing the water line, additional parking spaces, sidewalk construction and road reconstruction, Marshall said.

Marshall closed by informing the council of a request from downtown property owner Ryan Otis to extend the 60-foot limit to his property on Main Street.

In other business, the council discussed a new parking policy drafted by City Manager Joe Slocum for three of the city’s public lots to help Public Works plow city property more efficiently, but took no vote for its enactment.

The policy would have required a certain number of parking spaces to be used for even and odd days year-round overnight in the Washington, Beaver and Cross streets parking lots, leaving fewer parking spaces available for downtown apartment renters who use public lots for overnight parking.

City Councilor Mike Hurley said there were not enough parking spaces left open in the Beaver and Washington street lots in the city manager’s plan. He said there are more people who use the lots at night than spaces that would be allowed on certain days under the proposal.

Slocum said he developed the plan around where city plow truck drivers clear snow in the lots.

Other councilors had concerns similar to Hurley's. It was decided that Hurley would meet with Slocum and Public Works Director Bob Richards to develop a plan that better serves overnight parking and Public Works needs.

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