FARMINGTON — A resident’s claim that a condominium project is violating town ordinances gained traction this week and renewed a debate over what kind of development should be allowed on Main Street.

The town’s board of appeals upheld certain aspects of an appeal filed by Christie James, who is challenging a project seeking to build the condominiums behind the existing building at 223 Main St., which houses apartments and office space.

James, who lives next to the property, has been fighting the development plan for months, calling it a threat to the quaint downtown Farmington community. Her appeal seeks to overturn the town’s planning board unanimous voted in August to approve the project.

Appeals board members voted Tuesday that some of her claims are valid, sending the project back to the planning board for further review and possible revisions, according to Steve Kaiser, the town code enforcement officer.

Planning board members can either stand by their initial approval or require the developer to change the plan to meet new regulations before moving forward. A town’s decision on an appeal can be challenged in Franklin County Superior Court after the process is completed.

The appeals board challenged five specific rulings on town ordinances related to the project, which was approved after planning board members voted on numerous legal issues and ordinances, Kaiser said.

The legal issues being challenged in the case address everything from driveways and parking lots to public safety and new construction on properties that don’t meet certain town regulations.

Planning board members had ruled that the existing lot and building at 223 Main St. can break certain town regulations because they are grandfathered — in other words, the land was developed before ordinances were written. Many of the legal issues being challenged are tied to this issue.

The appeal by James argues that the grandfather defense fails to consider public protections under town ordinances, among other violations of zoning and building regulations, according to David Sanders, her attorney.

There are fundamental public safety concerns because the property is not big enough to accommodate the project, he said.

Sanders believes the project sets a dangerous example for future development on the section of Main Street, where many of the downtown businesses and residences border the University of Maine at Farmington campus.

“The real question here is whether or not zoning manages and controls how the area is developed,” Sanders said.

The condominium plan violates town ordinances that regulate larger development in the neighborhood, he said.

Bill Marceau, the condominium project property owner, did not return messages about the appeal. Brian Rayback, his attorney, spoke on his behalf before the appeal meeting and did not return a message Thursday.

Marceau plans to build a six-unit building for residents age 55 and older at an overall cost of about $700,000. The one- and two-bedroom units will sell for $150,000 to $185,000.

He owns Foothills Management Company, which has a number of rental properties in Farmington, and is a partner in another proposed elderly housing project, Willow Springs, on Fairbanks Road.

Marceau, who is a member of the planning board, recused himself from discussions about the condominium project.

Kaiser said Thursday that the town’s planning board will schedule a meeting to address the appeal.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]

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