April 05, 2020

Low-income dental clinic plan hits snag

BIDDEFORD – Catholic Charities Maine is hoping to build a dental clinic for low-income children in southern Maine, but the Biddeford planning board decided last week that local zoning rules don’t allow one in a largely residential area on Pool Street.

The proposed location has drawn objections from some neighbors with concerns about traffic.

Catholic Charities Chief Executive Officer John Kerry said the organization hopes to submit revised plans for a child care center. But the future of a dental clinic remains in doubt.

“There’s a need there,” Kerry said. “We could look elsewhere, but I think our desire is to focus our efforts in Biddeford.”

The 4-0 planning board vote was the second setback for the clinic project, which was supposed to be part of a building dubbed the St. Louis Project, in less than a year.

Earlier, Catholic Charities scrapped plans to build the project on Biddeford’s Hill Street because of cost.

The agency has been hoping to break ground before the end of the year and open a 12,500-square-foot child care center by September 2007.

Planning board member Arlene Eisenstadt said the panel rejected the clinic because it’s not a permitted use under zoning rules and the board didn’t consider it an authorized accessory to the child care center.

“They were saying it was the same thing as a school having a nurse. And schools don’t have dentists,” Eisenstadt said.

Kerry said splitting the St. Louis Project between two locations would add at least 20 percent to its total cost.

If the dental clinic is built, it will be Catholic Charities Maine’s only such location south of Bath. The agency believes the clinic would fill a need in southern Maine because many dentists do not treat Medicaid recipients.

A child care center on Pool Street could replace an existing child care center at an aging former school in Biddeford.

Kerry said Catholic Charities needs to move that operation because of licensing problems and safety concerns.

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