An engineering plan shows the 89-room Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel planned for Armory Road in Waterville.

WATERVILLE — The Planning Board voted Tuesday night to approve final plans for an 89-room hotel on Armory Road and send recommendations to the City Council for revisions to the city’s zoning ordinance dealing with solar farms.

Hill Hospitality, based in Easton, Maryland, plans to build a Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel at the corner of Industrial and Armory roads.

The 16,000-square-foot, four-story hotel with an indoor pool and fitness center is expected to have an entrance and exit from Armory Road, landscaping and 95 parking spaces.

Henry Hess, a landscape architect for Sebago Technics Inc. of South Portland, presented the final plans Tuesday for the project, for which the board reviewed informal preapplication plans Jan. 9.

In discussions late last year, developers said the hotel would have 81 rooms, but that number increased to 89 as plans developed.

The hotel, which would offer suites for extended stays, is to be built near two existing hotels on upper Main Street — the Fireside Inn & Suites and the Best Western Plus Waterville Grand Hotel.


In response to a question from City Planner Ann Beverage, Hess said the hotel would be completed within two years, as required by city ordinance.

The board also voted Tuesday to send recommendations for solar farm rule changes in the city’s zoning ordinance to the City Council. The council voted in September to refer the matter to the Planning Board, asking that members consider solar farm placement and standards. The council requested the board study the negative visual impacts of large-scale solar arrays and possible methods of mitigation; impacts to wildlife habitats, neighborhoods and outdoor recreational opportunities; and runoff and erosion issues.

The Planning Board can make recommendations for rule changes, but the City Council has final authority on such changes. Councilors must take two votes to approve rule changes, and may take only one vote per meeting.

When referring solar farm regulations to the Planning Board for recommended changes, the City Council asked that the board examine the highest and best uses for what it described as Waterville’s very limited available land.

Waterville has five solar farms — one on Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District property on Water Street; two on Webb Road; one on Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport property, on the east side of Interstate 95; and one on Eight Rod Road, between a mobile home park and a new subdivision.

The Planning Board’s recommendations to the City Council include information about when rezoning would be appropriate to allow for solar farms, and recommendations about solar farms from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.


Before the vote Tuesday, Planning Board members made several new recommendations beyond the current proposal. They recommended a qualified wetlands scientist conduct a survey of proposed solar farm sites before presenting final plans to the city, and that solar farm sites be returned to their predevelopment conditions within 24 months after a solar farm has no longer produced electricity for 12 months.

Planning Board member April Chiriboga expressed concern about vernal pools on proposed solar farm properties. She said she wanted to make sure no ground is disturbed until after the period when vernal pools are active.

“Vernal pools can be tricky to identify,” Chiriboga said, “and they should be looking for them when they’re identifiable, which is in the spring.”

She said she wanted to know if the city could ensure a developer would hold off on breaking ground until after a certain period of time has passed in the spring.

Beverage said she would contact the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to see what officials there have to say about vernal pools.

Board member Cassie Julia recommended language in the rules be clarified regarding 15-foot-wide buffers required along street and interstate lines. She suggested such a buffer might obstruct the sun if trees, for instance, are tall.

Board member Tom DePre recommended the city restrict the height of solar panels so they could not, for instance, be 30 feet tall.

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