AUGUSTA — Planners delayed action on a proposal to bring a larger convenience store to a controversial spot which sits between busy Western Avenue and a neighborhood of historic homes after residents expressed concern the bigger store could have a bigger impact on their neighborhood.

Augusta Quick Mart LLC is seeking a permit from the city to demolish the existing, 1,100 square-foot store, which sells gas as an Irving station, and replace it with a 2,150 square-foot convenience store.

The Planning Board tabled action on the final application of the project, and requested the owner provide architectural drawings and other information so they can scrutinize plans more closely.

The property at the corner of Western Avenue and Melville Street abuts busy and heavily commercialized Western Avenue to its front but, to the rear, abuts a residential neighborhood which residents said is full of historic homes and children playing along the street.

They asked the Planning Board to protect the neighborhood from any further commercial infringement.

Mary Owen, of Westside Neighbors, said the project would reduce property values of Melville Street homes, and be inconsistent with the comprehensive plan’s stated goal of preserving Augusta’s residential neighborhoods.

The company’s plan for expanded parking as part of the change would include an increase in the space being used in a “nonconforming use” in the city’s Medium Density Residential District.

Multiple neighbors, despite having concerns about some aspects of the proposal, said the existing building could benefit from some improvements.

“The building of a new building, I applaud,” said Joseph Riddick, who owns the propety next door to the Quick Mart. “They need to do something; it’s not attractive. So anything to upgrade the commercial building is fine. My concern is the nonconforming use (for parking) and the fact it edges against an historic neighborhood … I’m concerned about the commercial creep into that.”

The business is owned by Feras Alkurabi, of Sidney.

Jan Wiegman, of Sebago Technics, a consultant for the owner, said city ordinance requires the site have 11 parking spaces.

The parking lot, he said, “is not any bigger than it needed to be. We’re trying to be sensitive to neighbors.”

Melville Street is a dead-end street since the city, several years ago, installed a barrier at its end near Western Avenue.

However, residents said motorists regularly drive around the barrier and down their street, sometimes at high speeds.

Several years ago, the spot was proposed as the home for a new Dunkin’ Donuts, complete with a drive-thru. That proposal was fought by neighbors and did not win approval. A Dunkin’ Donuts was built nearby on Sewall Street instead.

Matt Nazar, deputy development director for the city, said the current project is very different from the former Dunkin’ Donuts proposal.

Planning Board Member Peter Pare, who used to own property nearby, said he supports the project because if planners don’t approve it nothing will change, and the site will remain a blight on the neighborhood.

However Linda Conti, board member, said the owner of the new building is the same owner of the current, poorly maintained property. Thus, she supported a motion, which was ultimately approved, 7-0, to table the issue and require the owner to provide architectural plans and other more detailed information including hours of operation, plans for plantings to provide a buffer around the site and around a trash bin and propane tank, and whether the property will be professionally maintained.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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