BANGOR – As part of its preparations for a racetrack casino at Bass Park, city staff and elected officials are considering zoning changes for Bass Park, where grandstand renovations are under way to accommodate the first 250 of the 1,500 slot machines developer Capital Seven LLC plans to install as one of the centerpieces of its $30 million redevelopment plan.
As things stand, most of the 305-acre Bass Park complex is located in a park and open-space zoning designation, a district encompassing the racetrack, grandstand, barns, shared parking area and municipal golf course.
The exceptions are the Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center, zoned government and institutional service district, the small parcels of city-owned land on adjacent Buck Street and Webster Avenue now zoned residential and the parking area behind the Irving station on Main Street, which is zoned general commercial and service district.
In a recent memo to City Manager Edward Barrett and City Solicitor Norman Heitmann, Planning Officer Katherine Weber proposed a new zoning district – called the Bass Park District.
The new district was modeled after the city’s Waterfront Development District, another area undergoing redevelopment, Weber noted in her correspondence with city administrators.
According to Weber’s proposal, the Bass Park District would encompass all the existing facilities, except the golf course, which would retain its current park and open-space designation. Existing uses – such as the Bangor State Fair, exhibits, conventions, entertainment and sports events, recreation programs and sales and service functions – would be allowed to continue.
Key new uses would be a racino, the gaming industry’s term for a combined racetrack casino, and related improvements, including a conference center, hotel or inn and associated eating and drinking establishments.
City councilors reviewed the plan during a committee meeting earlier this month.
In response to questions from Mayor Dan Tremble and Councilor Gerry Palmer, Weber noted that the district would allow slot machines to be operated at Bass Park – but only in conjunction with the racetrack there.
Noting that he thought of Bass Park as Bangor’s version of Central Park in New York City, Palmer said he would not want to see agricultural uses there “displaced” by more commercial ones, such as the slots parlor, hotel and other amenities Capital Seven proposes as part of its racino development.
“That’s a question we have to look at,” he said. “My concern is ‘mission creep,’ he added, “that what once was green becomes something else.”