PITTSFIELD – Planning board members Monday night gave a big thumbs up to two major projects, while not actually approving either one of them.
In one case – Cianbro’s purchase of the former San Antonio Shoe factory to turn it into an East Coast training center – the board said the use of the property was not changing enough to warrant a site review.
The other – the town’s plan to erect a wind turbine at the transfer station-recycling center – was scheduled for a public hearing Dec. 22.
“I don’t think we’ll have any opposition to the project. It is a wonderful project,” planner Christopher Cookson said. “But we owe it to the public to give them an opportunity to speak on this issue.”
Town officials have applied for a grant to fund the $63,000 municipal wind power project. If the grant is received, work must start by Dec. 15, Town Manager Kathryn Ruth explained. “But that could mean advertising and other actions,” Ruth said.
She said the wind turbine would be about 100 feet tall with 23-foot-wide blades. It will be on a concrete pad at the transfer station. The grant is being sought through the Maine PUC Community Development Project under Maine’s Voluntary Renewable Resources Fund.
Planner Bernard “Barney” McGowan questioned whether the town “was thinking big enough” and should come up with a plan for more windmills and solar panels in other locations within the town. “A great deal of federal money is going to be coming to Maine,” he said. “We need to be ready with a plan.”
In other business, the council listened to Peter “Andi” Vigue of the Cianbro Cos. explain plans for the former shoe factory off Waverly Avenue. He explained that Cianbro has the property under contract but the sale has not been made final.
Vigue said the 75,000-square-foot, one-story factory would be renovated and used for office space, an auditorium, classrooms and skills laboratories.
He said the company is now training workers at three locations in Pittsfield, as well as in Brewer, Bangor, Portland, Connecticut and Maryland.
“We need to centralize the training and education of our work force,” Vigue said. By having all training at the Pittsfield complex, a consistent curriculum can be offered.
He reassured the board that the grounds will remain as they are along the Sebasticook River and will be open for the community to use.
He said some outdoor training, such as rigging and crane work, will take place in the factory parking lot.
A much older three-story factory on the property will be used for storage, Vigue said, but eventually will be restored. “The windows need to be repaired, it needs a new roof and the bricks need repointing,” he said.
The older factory will provide secure storage for some items now stored off Peltoma Avenue that frequently are targeted by thieves, he said.
Vigue confirmed that there had been some discussion of converting part of the factory into dormitories for the workers undergoing training but that nothing had been decided yet.
The board determined that the use of the property was going to remain the same if not lessened from the manufacturing, training and storage that SAS conducted.
Planner Jennifer Siter explained that as long as Cianbro began work at the site within one year from the time SAS ceased operations, the use would be grandfathered and require no planning board approval.
Vigue was cautioned to come back to the board if any use of the property changes.
He said work on renovations would begin in the spring.