ELLSWORTH — A two-bay automated car wash on High Street at the Deane Street intersection will move forward after months of discussion. South Berwick businessman Aaron Wiswell found unanimous Planning Board approval on April 6, after submitting revised final review plans that addressed noise and traffic concerns.
Conditions of approval include a waiver of buffer requirements to allow for a solid vinyl fence to better protect residential streets from noise and headlights. The hours of operation must be kept to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., with car vacuums turned off at 7 p.m. The board also embraced Wiswell’s offer to cut the number of vacuums from three to two. Additionally, the overhead carwash doors must remain closed during the drying operation. Wiswell will also replace a tree on the High Street right-of-way, consulting first with the Planning Department.
“I’m confident this won’t be a nuisance to the neighbors,” said Wiswell, who added, “The vacuum is kind of a necessary evil. For me, truthfully, they’re more of a nuisance.”
The approval is also conditional on the project receiving a Maine Department of Transportation permit and a certificate of occupancy.
The 1,512-square-foot building will be constructed on a 0.66-acre parcel combining three lots, at 59 and 61 High St. and 62 Deane St., in the downtown zone.
Concerns over cars lining up along High and Deane streets to enter the car wash will be addressed by city signage. Site engineer Andrew McCullough noted that Wiswell’s car wash in South Berwick is identical to the one proposed for Ellsworth and has no more than five vehicles stacked for its highest volume bay — the touch-free wash — during its peak month despite sharing two entrance lanes with an Aroma Joe’s.
“I felt that was a very good indication of what is anticipated to be the peak” hours in Ellsworth, McCullough said.
He also shared the results of a traffic study he conducted where Deane Street meets Water Street and also at High Street. He counted cars from 11:10 to 12:10 on two days and observed no cars attempting to turn left from High Street onto Deane Street.
“I can tell you that during those time frames, there was no car that experienced more than a five-second delay in turning on any of those roads,” McCullough added.
Calvin Anderson, representing Harmon’s Car Wash, located a few blocks down on High Street, said if not for the long driveway into Harmon’s, they would have a stacking issue, as happens at Ellsworth Car Wash, located further down the road, where High Street is one-way.
“I think you’ll find people waiting on the street,” Anderson said.
Additionally, the fact that cars exit the wash on a downgrade means that water collecting in the back of truck beds will end up on the street, he said.
“Everyone brings [out] a certain amount of water, no matter how hard you dry them,” he noted.
His were the only public comments.
City Planner Elena Piekut noted that the proposal did not meet thresholds for a major site review but was brought to the Planning Board at the discretion of the Code Enforcement Department.
The board also heard from three men behind a Bucksport Road proposal. Tim Stone, Scott Bradshaw and Matt Krivonen presented sketch plans for a campground near the Orland town line that would include six “glamping” tent sites, four camper/tiny house sites and, eventually, 12 treehouses. All but the tents would be for year-round use as short-term rentals.
That rental period was shortened from four weeks to two, after concerns from board members. Additionally, there was uncertainty from the developers and the board about whether the lodgings would be considered dwelling units, since they allow for cooking, eating and bathing and will be open year-round, except for the tents. If they do count as dwelling units, the project would have to meet the requirements of a major subdivision.
“You can wiggle a little, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck,” alternate Patrick Lyons noted.
As proposed, the campground might also be considered as a hotel/motel, Piekut pointed out.
“Either way, this proposal as it stands triggers the major use site plan review,” she said.
Sketch plans come early in the planning process, and public comments included a suggestion the developers do a full site walk to see how water collects. Additionally, an existing stream means a permit is required from the Department of Environmental Protection
“We recognize we don’t fit in one category very neatly,” said site engineer Bradshaw. “What we’re trying to do is innovate outside of the box. We really want feedback from the city, Planning Board and the public. What can we do to make this development the best development we can?”