Bangor board defers post office site plan decision

Posted March 16, 2010, at 11:44 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The U.S. Postal Service, which is under a time crunch to move out of its current location, will have to wait another week before it learns whether its plans for a new home pass muster with the city planning board.

At the end of a marathon meeting Tuesday night, members of the planning board voted to continue next week their deliberations on a site plan application for the former District Court building at 73 Hammond St. The board decided to defer a decision because some members said they had lingering concerns about pedestrian safety, parking, and traffic entering and leaving the site.

In addition, Police Chief Ron Gastia, who was invited to attend by member Miles Theeman, raised several safety concerns.

Just before the board’s vote to continue the matter, Bangor attorney P. Andrew Hamilton said he’d consulted with representatives of the Postal Service and officials from Penobscot County, which owns the former District Court building, and was told that a weeklong delay would not scuttle the project.

The discussion will continue during a planning board meeting tentatively set for 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, at City Hall. The meeting will be preceded by a 3:30 p.m. visit to 73 Hammond St., the site at issue.

The former District Court building is the apparent front-runner among three the Postal Service has been eyeing as the future home of the Bangor post office, which must move out of its current location at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building by May 1. The other two contenders, both on Main Street, are the former Miller’s Restaurant site and empty space at the Bangor Daily News.

The need for site plan approval was triggered by the Postal Service’s plans to build a 22-foot-by-25-foot loading dock at the back of the building and to reconfigure parking on the county-owned site, which also houses the county jail and sheriff’s department.

During a meeting on Feb. 16, planning board members denied site plan approval, citing a series of safety and parking concerns.

Since then, the county, the Postal Service and their consultants from WBRC Architects-Engineers and Gorill-Palmer Consulting Engineers, have made several changes to their original plans.

Those include removal of a parking space that planning board members thought was too close to the proposed loading dock and elimination of a parking spot on Franklin Street that, when occupied, reduced visibility for motorists leaving the site by a ramp onto Franklin Street. The applicants also proposed adding a flashing and auditory walk light at the Franklin Street exit site and a change from 90-degree parking slots to angled ones.

Despite those changes, however, several planning board members still had lingering concerns Tuesday about the site’s safety.

Among the new recommendations that the applicants agreed to consider are a change in the “geometry” at the throat of the exit ramp onto Franklin Street and the addition of a parabolic mirror there to allow motorists and pedestrians to see each other.

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