The Damariscotta Planning Board heard from developers of a proposed 102-bed nursing facility on Piper Mill Road and the public on Monday, Aug. 1.
The applicant, Clippership Landing Development LLC, was represented by Daniel Maguire, of Sandy River Co., and Doug Gardner, of North Country Associates. Macguire explained that the development of the nursing facility is a joint venture between the two companies and LincolnHealth.
Once the facility is built, residents at Cove’s Edge on LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus in Damariscotta and at St. Andrew’s Village in Boothbay Harbor will transition to the home, according to a press release from LincolnHealth.
LincolnHealth entered into a study with Sandy River Co. in June 2021 to assess the viability of building a new nursing care facility in Damariscotta.
Damariscotta Attorney Jim Gallagher, a resident for 72 years, expressed concern about the traffic on School Street and said he felt the location on Piper Mill Road was not the right place for the facility. He said that currently it takes him five minutes to leave his driveway at the corner of Bristol Road and School Street, and the Clippership Landing development will only increase traffic, especially with shift changes twice a day, seven-days-a-week.
“The project looks wonderful,” Gallagher said. “The problem I have with it is the effect it is going to have on the residents of Damariscotta.”
The development is required to have 34 parking spaces, but 119 are being proposed.
Andy Johnston, of Atlantic Resource Consultants, said the parking spaces are needed for shift change because there are 55 employees on the morning shift and 35 on the later shift.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where there’s more cars than there are parking spaces,” Johnston said.
Abutting landowner Claire Sommer also brought up concerns and questions about lighting, a potential increase in traffic, stormwater runoff into Castner Brook, and preservation of trees and natural features.
“I’m very curious and a little concerned about the plan for maintaining the peaceful and rural nature of our neighborhood, specifically relating to a massive increase in traffic on Piper Mill Road and School Street,” Sommer said.
Town Planner Isabelle Oechslie said more details will be provided during the site plan review of the project and will answer many of Sommer’s questions.
Johnston said the developer has requested a traffic assessment report from the Maine Department of Transportation.
“They’re actually pretty low traffic generators,” Johnston said of similar nursing facilities.
He also said that the trees will be preserved as much as possible to maintain buffers and aesthetic value on the property.
The planning board reviewed the pre-application for the development and directed Oechslie to work with the applicant to schedule a site visit to the property.
Oechslie said the pre-application, also known as a sketch or conceptual review, allows for the applicant to gain some initial direction from the town and the plans may change throughout the process.
She recommended initiating a peer review of the applicant’s stormwater management plan and for the planning board to consider if a sidewalk on School Street should be part of the development. She noted that a sidewalk is a goal identified in the 2015 Newcastle-Damariscotta bicycle-pedestrian plan.
Johnston said the stormwater retention ponds on the property will only be a 1 1/2 feet deep and “look like a vegetated depression.”
Sandy River is building the facility with all private rooms, the second of its kind in Maine. The company is currently constructing the first such facility in Rockland.
Since its founding in the 1980s, Sandy River has had a mission to change the design of senior care centers by creating “neighborhoods” with decentralized dining and living areas in home-like environments, while planning and building more private rooms, Macguire said.
He said he didn’t like how the nursing homes were set up and they did not seem “home-like.”
“We’ve spent 40 years trying to turn it upside down,” Macguire said. “I always say we’re ungluing the old style of nursing homes that were built throughout the country in the 1970s and 1980s.”
Macguire also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic woke people up to the fact that “nursing homes weren’t working the way they were designed,” particularly in preventing the spread of infectious diseases.
He ran through details about what the pre-application refers to as a “state-of-the-art licensed nursing care center.”
The proposed Clippership Landing building is shown as having six wings, with a south-facing main entrance. The building will have a country kitchen in each neighborhood of the building, so residents can smell their food being prepared, which increase appetite, Macguire said. There will be a nurse’s station for every 13-16 patient, a fully electric hospital bed in each private room, and a European shower that does not have any barrier to step over.
Planning board member Neil Genthner said the application must be submitted in compliance with the town’s land use ordinance before the applicant can then go ahead and apply for waivers to the ordinance for the project.