WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday took first votes to change the zoning ordinance to allow Golden Pond Wealth Management at 129 Silver St. to expand and to include in the ordinance a condition that vehicles would enter and exit the site only from Silver Street and not Wilson Park.

Two votes are required to finalize the Golden Pond request, and only one could be taken Tuesday on each of two agenda items pertaining to the issue.

The Waterville City Council gave initial approval Tuesday to a zoning change that would allow Golden Pond Wealth Management, on Silver Street in Waterville, expand its building. Morning Sentinel file photo by David Leaming

Brian Bernatchez, senior partner at Golden Pond, said the business, which has been on Silver Street 16 years, has grown and wants to expand its 3,000-square-foot building on the Wilson Park side by about 2,000 square feet. It currently serves 500 clients and has eight staff members, he said. Golden Pond is at the corner of Silver Street and Wilson Park.

But Wilson Park residents said that while Golden Pond is a good neighbor, they are concerned about an expansion, which would be visible from Wilson Park, and the building would be vulnerable being occupied by a large business if Golden Pond ever sells it. Gail Carlson said she was speaking on behalf of her neighbors who are opposed to a zone change. Wilson Park, she said, is a quiet residential, dead-end street that is unique, and residents pay a premium in taxes there.

The accounting firm that was in the building before Golden Pond bought it also tried to expand, but residents fought it and the Planning Board sided with the homeowners, Carlson said. She said Bernatchez bought the property knowing what the restrictions were.

“We oppose ordinance 93 and we hope that the City Council will follow the precedent and the rules of the city,” Carlson said.

Bernatchez, however, said the business moved there from Belgrade 16 years ago because it is a good property. Most of its clients are older than 70 and it is important that they have easy access, he said. He said Golden Pond explored moving downtown, but his clients need access to parking and an elevator.

“As to the quiet, residential neighborhood, when this is all done, I don’t see that changing one decibel,” he said, in response to Carlson’s comments.

He also appealed to councilors to approve the changes.

“What we’re asking for is for you to find a way to invest in our growth so we can stay where we are for the next few decades,” he said.

The Planning Board on May 6 voted 4-0 to recommend that the council approve a change to the definition of “professional office” in the ordinance to include financial services. Board members Alek Fortier and Tom Nale abstained from voting on the request.

The council on Tuesday voted 7-0 to change the definition to include financial services. Councilors also voted 7-0 to include in the ordinance a condition that vehicles will enter and leave the business only from Silver Street and not Wilson Park.

On May 6, the Planning Board voted 3-1 to recommend that councilors amend the contract zone at 129 Silver St. to include the condition that vehicle access and egress would be allowed only from Silver Street. Fortier and Nale abstained, and board member Cathy Weeks voted against the request.

Councilorson  Tuesday discussed at length whether the language of the zoning changes requested for Golden Pond’s expansion was appropriate and what the zoning changes would mean in the future, not only for the building at 129 Silver St., but also for that area of the street in general.

Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, who lives near Golden Pond, said half of Silver Street is residential and it is slowly becoming more a commercial zone and losing the feel of what once was a residential neighborhood. He said he thinks the city needs to discuss whether it wants to go full-on commercial on the street, have a mix of commercial and residential, or protect the residential nature of the street. The real concern, he said, is what will happen in the future.

Councilors said that when they take final votes on the request, they will be armed with more information and have ideas for possible further amendments to the ordinance.

In other matters, the council voted 6-1 to approve a solar project for the former Runser property on Webb Road, and 6-1 to approve a solar project at the landfill, also on that road. Councilor Phil Bofia, R-Ward 2, opposed both. He objected to the fact that neither was listed on Tuesday’s agenda, which city officials said was an error, so residents who might have wanted to comment could not. He also said he thought the city could renegotiate with the company installing the solar arrays so that the city could get some of the electricity they would generate. But Thomas, Mayor Nick Isgro and others said the city has been working with the company about three years, it is a good plan and will benefit the city financially.

Councilors voted 7-0 to increase the retail price of purple trash bags residents use by $1 per package each year for the next five years. The increase will start July 1, for both small and large bags. For the first year, the change would increase the cost of small bags by 12 cents per bag and large bags by 20 cents per bag.

The reason for the proposed increase, recommended by the city’s solid waste and recycling committee, is to make trash disposal in the city self-supporting. Councilors had a lengthy discussion about the cost of trash and recycling and whether the city should get out of the trash business.

Councilors also voted 7-0 to take a final vote to award a $480,089 contract to LED Lighting, of Dover, New Hampshire, for new LED streetlights throughout the city. As part of the vote, $109,049 was approved to reimburse Central Maine Power Co. for the purchase of the company’s 1,492 street lights. Funding for purchase of the new and old light fixtures totals $589,138. The expected payback is 2.25 years. The council took a first vote May 7 to approve the plan.

The council voted 7-0 to renew a two-year contract with Somerset County Communications Center in Skowhegan for transferring 911 calls to Waterville Communications Center for $1.45 per capita. The annual cost for 2019-20 is $22,797, as the population of Waterville is 15,722. Somerset is one of 22 public safety answering points in Maine authorized to accept 911 calls, according to City Manager Michael Roy.

Councilors also voted 7-0 to approve a food license for Charter Foods North LLC, doing business as Taco Bell, at 345 Main St. The former owner of the building, GME Investments LLC, of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, which operated as Taco Bell only briefly, sold the building April 4 to Charter Foods, according to information from the city assessor’s office.

The council took a final vote to adopt a food sovereignty ordinance and authorized Roy to advertise 70 Violette Ave. for sale, with the final sale subject to council approval. In February, the city acquired the property through tax foreclosure. The amount due on the property was $5,130.

The council approved  a food license for Main Street 108 LLC, proposed by Kevin Joseph, owner of You Know Whose Pub, who wants to open a burrito shop there. Joseph said he hopes to open late June or early July.

The council voted 6-1 to approve a food sovereignty ordinance, with Bofia objecting. He said constituents expressed concern that people selling food will not be held to certain safety standards.

 

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