Applicant withdraws application to build condos on Parcher Street

ELLSWORTH — A plan to build either condominiums or apartments, or both, on Parcher Street has been withdrawn at the request of the applicant in the wake of strong opposition from neighbors.

Susan Harvey Chavez wrote to City Planner Michele Gagnon to say she was withdrawing her application because she is “very tired of the smear campaign” and because she saw “absolutely no chance of ever getting approved” by the city’s Planning Board.

Though neighbors said they are pleased the plan to build the multiunit housing project is no more, they are concerned about what might now be built on the property instead.

“We’re hanging in limbo, wondering what’s going to happen,” said Jim Newett, who with his wife, Jan, lives next door to where the project would have been built.

Steve Salsbury, who worked with Chavez and represented her at Planning Board meetings where the plan was reviewed, said Wednesday morning he could not speak as to what she may have in mind for the property.

“I’m not at liberty to say,” he said.

Salsbury also declined to comment on Chavez’s decision to pull the plug on the project.

“I can’t at this time,” he said.

Chavez bought the property at 10 Parcher St. earlier this year and was most recently applying for permission to build a nine-unit housing project that could have been marketed as either condos or apartments.

That was a slightly scaled-down version of the plan that first went before the Planning Board this fall, which called for 11 units in total (one an existing home on the property and the other 10 in a new building there).

Neighbors objected to the plan at several Planning Board and City Council meetings, saying it was not a good fit in their type of neighborhood. They had concerns about issues ranging from pedestrian safety to stormwater runoff and said that the city’s zoning rules should be modified to block that type of development in a neighborhood such as theirs.

Their call for a moratorium on development in the neighborhood zone was rebuffed by the City Council. Neighbors then said they would pursue a citizen initiative. It was not immediately clear Wednesday morning if that effort would continue or if it would be dropped in the wake of Chavez’s decision.

Gagnon confirmed Tuesday that the decision means the project is totally off the table, and is not just on hold or postponed. The Planning Board was set to consider the application again at its January meeting, but a revised copy of the agenda for that meeting was sent out Tuesday with that item removed.

That agenda arrived too late to update the public notice for the Planning Board’s Jan. 6 meeting in this week’s American, which appears on page three in Section III. That notice includes the Parcher Street development, but the matter will not be discussed.

Gagnon said Chavez has spoken with her and asked her what type of development she can do on her Parcher Street properties — she owns two adjacent lots, which according to city records together total 1.33 acres — without triggering Planning Board review.

Gagnon said she has heard from neighbors who see that as a circumvention of city regulations, but said she instead sees it as Chavez simply finding out what opportunities exist for her to pursue.

“It’s the same thing we do for anyone who comes in and asks us, ‘What can we do on our land?’ Gagnon said.

Gagnon said a key question she is working on answering has to do with regulations regarding subdivisions. One of the questions is when Chavez’s two lots were created, because the city’s subdivision ordinance does not treat land divided into multiple parcels before Sept. 23, 1971, as a subdivision.

Gagnon said most of the houses on Parcher Street were built in the 1960s and she suspects the creation of Chavez’s lots predates the 1971 date. An informal survey of city property records shows of the 12 houses with addresses on the street, 10 were built between 1965 and 1969. The home Chavez now owns was built in 1970, and a 12th home was built in 1972.

There are also exemptions from the subdivision rules for land divided after the 1971 date, including if the land was gifted to a family member.

Both of the lots Chavez owns meet the minimum requirements for lot size (20,000 square feet, or 0.46 acres), road frontage (50 feet) and lot width (100 feet) laid out under the city’s neighborhood zoning regulations, which apply to Parcher Street.

Allowed uses for residential projects in that district that do not require Planning Board review include single-family homes and duplexes.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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