June 06, 2020

Belfast board OKs smaller Cedar Ridge project> Opposition group Neighbors for Neighborhoods prepared to appeal decision on apartment complex

BELFAST — The planning board has granted approval of the Cedar Ridge apartment complex at a density of six units per acre — not the 10 units per acre of the project’s original design.

The board reached its decision late Wednesday night, culminating more than a month of extended hearings on the controversial housing project designated for a 5.3-acre lot at the junction of Cedar and Wight streets. It reduces the scope of the project from 52 to 32 total units.

Developer John Morris, who designed the project, has already indicated that he plans to appeal the ruling to the zoning board of appeals. Neighbors for Neighborhoods, the group that opposed the project from the start, also plans to appeal the board’s decision.

“We did our part,” planning board Chairman John Marshall said Thursday. “Now we’ve passed it on to another level of the process.”

The board of appeals has yet to schedule a hearing, but a spokesman for Code Enforcement Officer Robert Temple indicated that the appeal likely would be heard next month.

In granting its approval, the board rejected Morris’ request to drain storm water on site rather than tie his drainage system to an existing storm water drain on an abutting property. Marshal said the owner of that property had indicated a willingness to negotiate an easement with Morris.

“We thought that it would be better to connect to that storm drain because it will create an improvement downstream,” Marshall said. “We wanted him to do something to improve the drainage in that part of town.”

Morris was granted a waiver to the requirement that subdivisions have two access roads. Marshall said the board determined that a single access road off Wight Street would better serve the project and neighborhood. He said traffic on Cedar Street would have to be changed to one way if it were used as an access to Cedar Ridge.

Abutter Lisbeth Norrback was upset by the board’s decision and accused members of “selling out to Morris.” Norrback said the road would run alongside her yard and that Morris’ only concession to what she termed an “invasion” of her privacy was “a few arbor vitaes.”

Morris was also required to build a sidewalk along the access road.

Opponents of the project have retained attorney Clifford Goodall of Augusta to represent their interests during the appeal process. Goodall predicted last week that the case would eventually wind up in Superior Court no matter how the zoning board ruled.

Goodall said he interpreted the city’s zoning ordinance to prohibit multifamily construction from Cedar Street’s residential zone. Marshall agreed that the ordinance was “confusing” on the matter of multifamily housing. “We’ll have to see how a judge reads it,” he said.

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