ELLSWORTH — At its monthly meeting on March 7, the Ellsworth Planning Board approved an $8-million renovation and development project presented by Woodlawn Museum.
The decision comes two weeks after the Board of Appeals authorized the demolition of three buildings on the property. The board approved the plans under the condition that Woodlawn meet Fire Department standards for water-pressure and flow-rates.
The project was approved after several months of meetings between Woodlawn and the Historic Preservation Commission, which voted against granting the certificate of appropriateness required for the buildings to be removed. Woodlawn appealed the decision and won when the Board of Appeals voted on Feb. 26 to retroactively approve the certificate.
The Planning Board heard public comment during the March 7 meeting, at which point resident Penelope Houghton spoke about concerns she had regarding communication with the organization over the years.
“My overarching concern is what kind of neighborly relations Woodlawn has extended,” said Houghton, adding that she lives near the museum and had voiced several concerns that she felt were not all appropriately addressed.
Houghton cited fire safety, traffic, drainage and public education regarding “certain behaviors that need to be limited in a residential area. Drinking, smoking, garbage, things like that” as issues she had raised in the past. Houghton said she has seen visitors to the museum throw cigarette butts out of their car windows while driving out of the driveway.
In response to questions from the board about traffic, representatives from Woodlawn pointed to a page in the application indicating an increase of 97 vehicle trips per hour at peak times during events, and said they are working to address drainage issues that may arise.
The plans include an 8,000-square-foot visitor center capable of holding over 300 people, depending on the way the space is configured.
Woodlawn plans to use the space for events and exhibitions. The carriage barn will be removed and rebuilt with new and salvaged materials and the parking lot will be expanded. The caretaker’s house at the back of the property will be demolished, and the workshop will be enlarged and turned into a space for housing the museum’s collection of carriages and sleighs.
The plans also call for a pantry to be added at the back of the event center, along with a lobby, gift shop and ticket counter. There will also be a small exhibition space, staff meeting rooms and a gallery. No alterations will be made to the iconic Black House that overlooks Surry Road, and artifacts will be moved during renovations.
The board also approved final plans for four residential duplexes and 11 self-storage buildings on the site of the former NewLand Nursery on the Bangor Road. Atlantic Landscape Construction purchased the 9.5-acre site in June of 2017.