Proposal to build 260 apartments at market price in Augusta faces backlash from neighbors

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A computer-generated rendering shows what the proposed five-building apartment complex off Eight Rod Road in Augusta could look like. Courtesy of John Flatley Company

AUGUSTA – A New England developer is looking to build 260 apartments on undeveloped land off Eight Rod Road, within walking distance of Augusta Market.

One- and two-bedroom apartments, all of which would be at market price, would be spread across five buildings.

Neighbors have expressed concerns about the potential impact of such a massive new development, and the city’s planning board filed the proposal on Tuesday to give the developer more time to obtain other necessary permits, respond to concerns about traffic to and from the site and fleshing out the project. proposal.

Augusta and other areas of the state are currently experiencing a shortage of available housing at all levels.

The project is proposed by Massachusetts-based John Flatley Co., whose application documents indicate that it has developed other housing projects over the past 10 years. Some of these projects are: 564 units, at a cost of $75 million, in Nashua, New Hampshire; 240 units, at a cost of $35 million, in Merrimack, New Hampshire; 144 units, at a cost of $23 million in Somersworth, New Hampshire; and 492 units, at a cost of $100 million, in Quincy, Massachusetts. Company officials said all of these developments are either complete, with significant waiting lists, or at 90% or better.

“I’ve been in the business for 40 years; I grew up in the business, that’s what I do,” Flatley said during the Planning Board’s consideration of the proposal on Tuesday night. “I look forward to working with the city and doing our best to make the neighborhood happy with what we have. It’s going to be a really nice property.

Several neighbors who have spoken about the proposal to the Planning Council are, so far, not satisfied with the proposal.

Lester Wilkinson, a lawyer representing Matt Pooler, who owns a property on the corner of Eight Rod Road and Old Belgrade Road, said Pooler had heard nothing from the developer and was worried about noise, an apparent lack of screening and other disturbances of such a great development. His property would adjoin the development site on two sides.

“You can understand that if you owned this property and it was your little slice of heaven, you might have some serious reservations about this monstrosity rising right next to his building,” Wilkinson said, adding that Pooler n was unable to attend due to health issues. . “We haven’t spoken to him. It’s worrying and it doesn’t indicate that we’re going to have a harmonious project.

Representatives of the developer and city officials agreed that the project proposal is currently incomplete and not ready for approval. The project requires a traffic permit from the Maine Department of Transportation, a permit for part of the development to be located just 25 feet from a creek, and further analysis of the wetlands on the site. City officials also said they wanted more information about the site’s design. The Planning Board voted to table the proposal indefinitely.

“It seemed that since this project was so important, coming forward and getting some of the public input at this stage is very valuable to council,” said Betsy Poulin, planner. “It’s important to hear these comments while the design is still evolving.”

The apartments would be developed on a section of a larger 100-acre plot owned by the Calumet Club and bordered by Eight Rod Road, Old Belgrade Road and National Road 3. The development would be on a 31-acre portion on the west side of the property. lot along Eight Rod Road near back of Market Square at Augusta Mall. The developer has a purchase option on the site.

The site is undeveloped and largely forested now.

Mike Whitten, who has lived on Eight Rod Road for 30 years, said he understood the need for apartments in Augusta, but said the quiet neighborhood it is being offered for is not the right place for so many buildings where they would be inconvenient.

Poulin said the site is zoned as low-density residential, where multi-family dwellings are conditional use, meaning they are permitted but require a higher level of review. The zone requires that each dwelling unit on the site have at least 5,000 square feet of living space on the site. Poulin said the developer was looking to meet that requirement by purchasing an additional 8 acres to add to the total size of the property.

Nick Rende, a resident of Eight Rod Road, said it might meet the letter of the law, but “260 units in five buildings doesn’t scream low density to me.”

He suggested moving the main entrance from Eight Rod Road to Old Belgrade Road, where the ball courts are now accessed. He said it would save the development’s 100 to 400 cars from having to travel down Eight Rod Road where, he said, its intersection with Old Belgrade Road “stinks” because of poor sight lines.

Mandrel Haypresident and CEO of MaineGeneral Medical Center, which is near the proposed development, wrote a letter to the city’s planning board saying he had met with representatives of Flatley’s company and that he supports the proposal to bring more housing to the area where it is hard to find now.

“As the largest employer in the Augusta area, I can tell you that one of the concerns of our staff is finding adequate housing; this goes for current staff and staff at all levels that we can recruit from across the state and nation,” Hays wrote.

“I understand apartments are scarce,” Rende said. “I can’t say that I’m against the idea of ​​this, in this place. However, I think there are things the Planning Board can do to improve that not only for the people on Eight Rod Road and Old Belgrade Road, but for the people who will be living there, because putting them on Eight Rod Road, and sending them to this intersection of Old Belgrade Road, is going to be a mistake.

He was one of many residents who expressed concern about increased traffic likely to result from the development.

The required MDOT traffic permit may necessitate changes to local roads to accommodate the expected increase in traffic volume, which Poulin says would result in more than 100 new vehicle trips during the rush hour of the daytime.

Jim Coffin of Coffin Engineering and Surveying, who is working for Flatley on the project, predicts that the state Department of Transportation will likely ask the developer to put a sidewalk between the site’s main entrance and the market square in Augusta, the along Old Belgrade Road. But the meetings between the State, the city and the developer have not yet taken place.

“We are not expecting any approval tonight; we just want to put our cards on the table, hear your feedback, whatever your concerns are,” Coffin told board members and a group of neighbors who attended a public hearing on the proposal.

The possibility for the Ministry of Transport to require a sidewalk as part of the project concerned Riley Leavitt, a resident of Old Belgrade Road, whose house is directly behind the Market Square. He said he was worried about having all that foot traffic directly in front of his house and that he could lose part of his front yard and his driveway to the new sidewalk.

Poulin said the developer plans to work with the Greater Augusta Utility District to extend water and sewer lines approximately 1 mile to the site.

Flatley said once the project is approved, it would take two to three months for site work and then eight months to construct the first building. The remaining buildings would be built one by one, with only six weeks between them.

The proposal includes plans for a swimming pool, a compaction building where residents would take their trash, walking paths and a community building.


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