The Bangor Planning Board has changed its tune on a developer’s proposal to build an expanded variety store and rebranded gas station at the intersection of Union and Fourteenth streets on the city’s west side.
While the planning board rejected proposed zoning changes to four properties near the intersection in a 3-2 vote last December, it unanimously endorsed them Tuesday night after several neighbors who previously expressed concern said they had met with the developer, Chuck Lawrence, and he had made changes to the proposal that assuaged their concerns.
Lawrence aims to replace the Tom T convenience store and Irving gas station that are at the intersection with a 4,200-square-foot Tradewinds convenience store that includes a deli and Citgo gas station. The expanded store would be about four times the size of the existing Tom T, according to documents from the city planning office.
Lawrence, the owner of the Tradewinds chain of grocery and convenience stores, already owns the four properties on Union, Fourteenth and Frances streets on which he’s planning the project.
“I think it’s of great importance that we have heard positive input from the neighbors that are going to be in this area,” Michael Bazinet, a planning board member, said before the vote. “That’s weighing heavily on my decision to lean positive on this, that the general consensus seems to be that it’s a welcome construction.”
The Bangor City Council will now consider the zoning changes and the planning board’s recommendation at its next regular meeting on Monday night. If the change passes, the city would have to grant additional approval for the developer to expand the commercial structures and parking that are now there.
In addition to putting up the variety store, Lawrence also hopes to tear down a neighboring house at 548 Union St. to expand the available parking, but the conditions of his proposed zoning change require that he keep two homes at 108 Fourteenth St. and 19 Frances St. He has said those homes will be used for employee housing.
Under the zoning change, he also has agreed to build a 6-foot-tall fence and plant at least 12 conifer trees between the variety store and those homes.
He also downsized the proposed store from 4,800 square feet to 4,200 square feet after appearing before the planning board in December, and the zoning change proposal includes contractual conditions that it only operate from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“I find that this proposal is a very clear, distinct improvement,” said George Newhall, who lives a few properties away on Manners Ave. “The neighborhood has really no objections to this corner being used for what it has been. I’ve been there 66 years. My only concern is when they bought this place, they also bought several other lots, and my concern was that once they get established, that they may get the idea that they want to expand that and take more space and remove those other houses.”
That, Newhall said, could negatively affect the value of nearby properties.
But David Gould, the city’s planning officer, told the planning board that the proposed zoning changes will include conditions for any current or future owners of that property to keep those two homes standing. That could only change if the owner proposes a new zoning change, which would require the planning board and City Council’s approval.
Lawrence, who attended the meeting, said afterward that he doesn’t plan to make any changes to the site beyond the convenience store and gas station he’s now proposing.
“This is the size of store I want to do in this area,” he said.
He also said he appreciated the city’s help and the planning board’s previous vote against recommending the zoning changes he sought. He withdrew his application at that time and reached out to neighbors. His engineer, Randy Bragg of Carpenter Associates, told the planning board that they sent notices to about 38 people and met with about 20 of them at the Bangor Public Library.
“We want to be a good community citizen,” Lawrence said. “We don’t want an adversarial relationship.”
Originally started in Blue Hill, the Tradewinds chain now includes 14 locations across the state, according to its website.
No one spoke against the proposed zoning changes during the planning board meeting. Three neighbors said they were pleased with Lawrence’s changes to the proposal and his efforts to meet with them.
“They were very accommodating in the library, and we feel pleased with what they have done and come up with,” said Kathleen Strout, who lives on Manners Avenue and attended the meeting with her husband, Jeff.