April 07, 2020

Bangor board OKs crematorium plan

BANGOR – The city’s planning board granted site development plan approval Tuesday night for a proposed crematorium project, and to the developer the city tapped to take on the Union Neighborhood Conservation Project.

The proposed crematorium, which would be operated by Brookings-Smith Funeral Home, would be Bangor’s second. The first opened in the early 1970s at Mount Hope Cemetery.

The crematorium would be located on a 1.7-acre parcel at Pine Grove Cemetery, off Hammond Street Extension.

According to Michael Clisham, a Bangor lawyer who is part of the project development team, Brookings-Smith has received an air emissions license from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, allowing it to operate two combustion chambers.

Brookings-Smith also had to form a nonprofit corporation to own and operate the crematorium, as required by state law. The city’s agreement with the corporation stipulates that the funeral home invest at least $300,000 in the project, submit building plans to a council committee for review, and have schedules for permitting and construction.

Brookings-Smith also has agreed to make an annual payment in lieu of taxes to the city. A dollar amount was not immediately available Wednesday.

Clisham said after the meeting that Brookings-Smith hopes to break ground on the project next spring.

The board’s unanimous decision to grant site plan approval to John Karnes for Union Place followed several critical remarks by David Lawler, who has owned and operated Dave’s Movie Center next door for 30 years and who has restored several nearby buildings.

Lawler was the first to receive tentative developer status for Union Place, a rundown neighborhood the city acquired and cleaned up in the 1990s.

Lawler’s plans called for replacing his store, an aging former gas station, with a larger, two-story structure modeled after the 1906 Carnegie Library at Good Will-Hinckley in Fairfield. The building would have housed his business on the ground level and five residential units on the top floor. He also proposed renovating the existing four-unit apartment building.

After sinking more than $20,000 into planning and design, he withdrew his proposal in late 2004 because he and city officials were unable to agree on how much Lawler should pay the city for the property.

Lawler said Tuesday that he had offered to pay the city as much as $25,000 for the 0.8 acre site but that the city was asking for $150,000. He said the city recently agreed to sell the parcel to Karnes for $6,000, which Karnes confirmed during the meeting.

Among Lawler’s complaints about Karnes’ plans were that the site was too small to accommodate 12 rental units along with emergency vehicles and snow removal.

Planning Officer David Gould said that the access drive would be 42 feet wide, which he said was more than adequate and “by far much better than it was” before the city cleared the site of most of the buildings.

Karnes’ plans call for renovating and expanding the apartment building to include two more units and building six new units. Nine of the apartments will be rented at market rate and the remaining three will be reserved for low- to moderate-income tenants.

Karnes also plans to include a play area for children at the back of the property to create a “family feeling.” Snow can be stored in that area in winter, he said.

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