ELLSWORTH — The city may soon see an influx of market-rate housing in the form of 142 multi-family units on 140 acres off the Downeast Highway.
At the Planning Board’s regular monthly meeting on June 1, developer Scott Pelletier, with WL Properties, and engineer Shelly Lizotte, from Artifex, presented a three-phase plan for a neighborhood containing mostly two-bedroom duplexes. The entrance to the community would be through Eastward Lane.
Pelletier said he wants to build it right and, as may be appealing to the city, he wants to build it fast.
“We want to break ground in the fall,” Pelletier told the board. “These are going to be quality properties; this isn’t going to be thrown together.”
It’s a two- or three-year timeline for all three phases of the project, with phase one consisting of 74 units, more than half of the total number of units planned for the site. And while the development will have amenities available for those who live on site, it’s not something that will be available for use by the general public.
“We’re going to be a gated community, we’re just not necessarily going to have a gate,” Pelletier explained to the board. “We’re not going to have stuff to invite people from the outside into it.” The goal is to have the development feel like its own neighborhood as opposed to a housing complex.
“We plan on leaving the natural look,” Pelletier said. “We’re not going to come in and clear cut and make it an urban city unit. It’s going to be country living. With a lot of apartments.”
Pelletier and Lizotte were presenting their sketch plan to the board for review, a valuable chance for feedback before the plan is submitted for formal approval. Board members were generally supportive of the plan, stressing the need for more housing in Ellsworth. But there were a few concerns raised, mainly with the additional traffic the development would add to the area.
“These are non-trivial numbers you’re talking about,” said board member Rick Lyles, “and those intersections with [Route] 1 are not the best in the world. There’s a lot of traffic and there’s a left turn there, or center-left, and as they come out on [Route] 1 those are unmarked roads. I can’t imagine putting another light in there, but at the same time we want to make it as safe as possible.”
“I actually spoke with the DOT and, using their trip generation book, we determined that the site doesn’t actually warrant a traffic movement permit,” Lizotte responded. “We would only generate a half a trip per unit at the peak hour.”
This means that the site is estimated to only add around 70 trips that will begin or end in that traffic zone and a full permit is only required if a site reaches a number of 200 or more, Lizotte went on to explain.
“But when you add that number on top of the other things happening in that area,” Lyles countered, “you take a situation from ‘meh’ to bad. I’d be looking for significant detail on the traffic plan.”
The parties discussed the possibility of using Resort Way to access the development, or adding an entrance at the intersection of Myrick Street and Downeast Highway. There is another property between Pelletier’s land and the Myrick intersection currently.
“If I had my druthers, I’d like to see an access up at Myrick as well during high-flow volumes,” said board member Marc Rich.
“We were talking about coming out there anyway,” said Pelletier. “And it might be advantageous for the current property owner as well. Give them a chance to acquire more frontage.”
Board members also stressed the importance of walkability and pedestrian access, as a way to both ease the vehicle traffic and improve the experience for future residents of the site.
“I think it would be great if people could walk to Walgreens or to Hannafords,” said board alternate Patrick Lyons. “Bike lanes would also be nice. If people can bike to town or bike to the Sunrise Trail. I’d like to see in the plans if you can provide safe biking paths.”
Pelletier and Lizotte were open to the board’s suggestions and agreed to provide a detailed overview of all three phases of the plan so that members could see the bigger picture while considering the entire project.
At the meeting, Lyons and board member Nelson Geel, whose terms were set to expire at the end of this month, confirmed for the record that they would be willing to serve another term on the board. City Planner Elena Piekut also announced that former fire inspector Mike Hangge had volunteered to join the board.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the last name of a volunteer for the board. He is Mike Hangge.