ROCKPORT, Maine — Concerns about Pen Bay Medical Center’s refusal to share the long-range master plan for its Route 1 medical campus dominated discussions Wednesday night as the hospital sought approval for a seven-bed hospice house.
But in the end after more than an hour of discussions, the board voted 6-1 to approve the hospice center.
“The fact that there is no hospital representative here to speak to future plans for the hospital property, I find a little troubling,” said Planning Board member Thomas Murphy.
The board should have the bigger picture for the 63 acres so it can better judge the plan before it, Murphy said.
Planning Board Chairman Kerry Leichtman agreed with Murphy’s concerns.
“This secret thing, this failure to be forthcoming has made these meetings not go as smoothly,” Leichtman said.
Board member Terri MacKenzie said the board should only be looking at the plan before it and not at possible future plans. She said those later projects should be reviewed by future planning boards.
Daniel MIller, senior project manager associate for WBRC Architects and Engineers of Bangor, said Pen Bay was not yet willing to share the master plan with the board or public. He said the plan has not been approved by the board.
The planning board first reviewed the plan on March 13. The board toured the site on April 10 and continued deliberations on it that evening.
The plan calls for a 9,740-square-foot building on the northwest corner of the Pen Bay campus. The hospice would have seven beds but be designed to allow for expansion. There would be 21 paved parking spaces with room for 10 additional ones.
At last month’s meeting Police Chief Mark Kelley voiced concerns about the design of the roads leading to the hospice. The chief said the road to the hospice, which branches off from the main entrance to the hospital, was too close to Route 1 and could lead to traffic backups.
Diane Morabito, president of Maine Traffic Resources of Gardiner, said her analysis shows that the access road to the hospice was not too close to Route 1 and a left-turn lane would be created for traffic coming off Route 1.
The chief also voiced concerns about a second road that would lead directly off Route 1. The road is proposed to be used for vehicles during construction of the hospice and then would only be used as an emergency alternate exit if there was a problem at the main hospital road off Route 1.
The board approved the hospice plan with conditions that the secondary road be gravel near Route 1 and that it have signage to indicate it was not an entrance.
Rockport Planner Tom Ford said a facility such as Pen Bay Medical Center should have a secondary emergency entrance in the event of an accident or some other disruption at the current main entrance on Route 1.
Murphy said he worried that this was a backdoor attempt to create a second main entrance. He said without a master plan he would not be able to vote for the project.
Ford said the Maine Department of Transportation would not approve a second traffic light so near the main entrance at PBMC.
Construction is expected to begin in 2013.
Pen Bay has considered building a hospice center for several years and had received approval from the Rockland Planning Board in 2007 to construct a $2 million, 10,000-square-foot facility on Pleasant Street in Rockland next to the Kno-Wal-Lin home health and hospice office building. The City Council approved a zone change to allow the hospice to locate there.
The recession, however, nixed plans for construction of the center at that time.