AUGUSTA — The expansion of the Kennebec County Courthouse — essentially a new building with a connector to the second story of the existing courthouse — will be the topic of a public hearing Tuesday by the city Planning Board.

The major development application for the new four-story 120,000-square-foot courthouse is the final of four items scheduled for public hearings beginning at 7 p.m. at Augusta City Center Lecture Hall. If time permits, the courthouse application could be voted on at the meeting, said Matt Nazar, the city’s deputy director for development services.

If the Planning Board does not vote on the courthouse project Tuesday, it could be considered at the next meeting, July 24.

The board’s approval would give the proposed project a green light to proceed pending a zoning change which is up for a public hearing by City Council at its July 19 meeting. Court officials are hoping to raze the former Crisis & Counseling Centers building, as well as the Augusta Spiritualist Church, in August.

Some $62 million in bonds have been authorized to pay for that project as well as planning for two other courthouse construction projects. Half the bonds have been sold and the remainder will be sold in 2013.

James Glessner, state court administrator, said previously that completion date for the new project is anticipated to be spring 2015. The consolidated courthouse was proposed in October 2009 by Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley.

The zone was changed several years ago to business professional to accommodate a courthouse expansion. However, to allow construction of the 68-foot tall building (which fits the roofline of the existing courthouse), the zone must revert to Kennebec Business District 1. The designation in that zone also must be expanded to include courts as a permitted use.

The Planning Board has already seen the project in a preapplication meeting, and questions there centered largely on traffic, parking “and some questions on aesthetics and how the architecture would compliment the existing courthouse,” Nazar said.

He said no one expressed opposition to the project.

The new courthouse, which would combine both Augusta District Court and Kennebec County Superior Court operations, as well as other state court functions, is to be erected between Winthrop and Court streets, with the connector traveling over Perham Street to the 1830 granite county courthouse building. The project, including parking, covers 2 1/4 acres near the heart of Augusta, and some of it is on a steep slope.

The application for the major development permit was submitted by Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers Inc., on behalf of the Administrative Office of the Courts, and indicates the building will have almost 100 people working in it when it is finished.

The builder is Consigli Construction Co. Inc., of Portland, the same contractor that erected the Bangor courthouse.

Public parking will be on a lot across Court Street, with restricted parking under the building for court personnel, judges, and prisoner transport vehicles. All visitors to the building will undergo security screening at the main entrance.

The plans — posted on the city’s website — show a small rotary or public plaza on the Court Street side of the building near the main entrance, which is where the Spiritualist Church now stands.

The church leaders sold the site to the state and are building a new church on Townsend Road.

Other public hearing topics set for Tuesday at the Planning Board meeting:

* increasing size of free-standing signs;

* adding retail as a permitted use in the resource development district on Mount Vernon Avenue;

* renewing five-year mineral extraction license of McGee Properties LLC, West River Road.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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