Planning Board members unanimously approved the Lyman-Morse site plan for the redevelopment of its buildings on Camden Harbor Dec. 3.

New construction will include a company office, a second boatwork building, retail and additional office space for lease, lounges for boaters and crews, a larger restaurant and a distillery building with a bar. The maximum height of the new buildings will be 24 feet. A wider boardwalk will be designed for increased public access to the waterfront.

The company's existing buildings, except for an 11,000-square-foot boatwork building, were damaged by a June fire in the Rhumb Line restaurant. Since that time, the town revoked the certificates of occupancy for the damaged buildings, and company offices have been located in temporary trailers.

The damaged buildings, totaling 31,400 square feet, will be demolished. New construction will total 32,924 square feet.

A three-hour public hearing on the plan was held Nov. 19. It included two sessions during which members of the public spoke and asked questions, and many comments emailed or mailed to the town were read into the record. It also included segments where board members asked questions of the applicant and discussed the plan, as well as issues raised by members of the public.

The public hearing portion of the site plan was closed Nov. 19, at the end of the three-hour session. By that time, it was clear that all aspects of the plan submitted by Lyman-Morse conform to town zoning ordinances for the harbor business district, where the facility is located.

Discussion on Dec. 3 centered around review of site plan criteria established by town ordinance. Members of the public were not permitted to speak during these deliberations, and Planning Board members were not allowed to introduce any new information or testimony.

Board members asked for three contingencies. One was that new plantings, used as a buffer between Lyman-Morse and neighboring properties, not to exceed proposed building heights. This was recommended by Board member Mark Siegenthaler, and agreed to by other board members. The purpose of this contingency is to respect the requests of residential owners on Sea Street that their views of the harbor not be obstructed by landscaping that exceeds the heights of the facility's buildings.

Another contingency is the use of a system that will allow the fire department access to any locked gates or buildings. The third contingency is the completion of all requirements to meet the town's flood plain ordinance.

Board member Jeff Senders asked about erosion control measures during construction. Will Gartley, of Gartley and Dorsky Engineering, explained that the bulkhead for the boardwalk will act as a barrier between the site and the harbor, because it is higher than the ground on which the current buildings and boardwalk sit. The redevelopment involves demolition of the existing buildings and boardwalk, and reinforcement of the ground where the new buildings will be constructed.

The new buildings will have sprinkler systems for fire suppression and sufficient public water to serve that system, according to Gartley.

Board members quickly approved plan elements including vehicle access and parking, and exterior lighting. Drainage requirements were approved, given that the amount of imperious surface is reduced in the new plan. Special criteria for piers, wharves and breakwaters was deemed not applicable to the project.

Board member Ethan Shaw brought up the issue of sea level rise, also discussed Nov. 19. He stated his opinion that Lyman-Morse owners had an opportunity to request variances or a zoning ordinance change, in order to raise the ground floor-elevations of the building above what is required by the flood plain ordinance, while retaining the same building heights. He said not accounting for what is predicted in the future is a mistake.

Colcord Avenue building

Board members also approved a site plan for a new, 3,000-square-foot building on an empty lot on Colcord Avenue in the industrial zone.

The property will be purchased by Mitchell McMillen who plans to build a 50- by 60-foot metal building, to store a recreational vehicle. The building will also contract a 350-square-foot office for lease.

Landscape designer Asa Peats reviewed the site and building layout with board members.

A significant part of the board's discussion centered around the proposed building height of 38 feet. Planning Board Chairwoman Rosie Curtis asked McMillen about the relation of that height to surrounding buildings. The former Tibbets building across the street is one-story, and the adjacent building is one and a half stories high, McMillen said.

An architectural element on top of the roof designed to bring natural light into the building brought the building height to 38 feet.

Curtis asked McMillen if he would consider a different design for that element. She suggested a dormer structure would lower the height of the element, and also asked about lowering the roof line itself.

Martin pointed out that zoning on Colcord Avenue allows the proposed building height of 38 feet.

Board member Matt Siegel questioned whether it is within the Planning Board’s purview to be redesigning the height of the building, even through he agreed with comments about the height.

McMillen said he was amenable to modifying the design of the architectural element on the roof in order to lower the building height.

To settle the matter, the board voted on a condition, which McMillen agreed to, that the overall building height not to exceed 35 feet, in order to conform with the surrounding neighborhood.