SOUTH PORTLAND — Already on a tight deadline, the developer selected to build new offices in South Portland for the state departments of Labor and Health and Human Services asked planning officials Tuesday to delay their decision on the project for a month.

ELC Management Inc. of Portland, led by Eric L. and Kenneth J. Cianchette, asked the South Portland Planning Board to delay its decision on the $9.8 million, two-story office building until Feb. 25 so the developer can negotiate with a neighboring landowner to add a second vehicle entrance for employees.

The second vehicle entrance would allow employees and emergency drivers to enter through a gated driveway from City Line Drive, a private road owned by the adjacent Jetport business park, while the public would enter through a driveway from Jetport Boulevard.

It is unclear when the Portland City Council will take up the issue of granting the easement, which is needed because of a land deal made in 1997 between Portland and the owner of the development site, Brooklawn Memorial Park.

The developer also needs a handful of permits, including approval by Portland’s council to install the main entrance, a state Department of Environmental Protection permit and an approved traffic plan by the state Department of Transportation.

“We hope to start construction next month right after we receive approval,” said John Mitchell, the project’s landscape architect. “The schedule is very tight.”

Kenneth Cianchette expressed confidence that his group can complete the project before the DHHS must move out of its current offices in Portland, by Jan. 31, 2015.

“Trust us when we say we don’t want to lose a 75,000-square-foot office tenant,” Cianchette said. His company will build the offices through a subsidiary company, Jetport State Building, LLC.

The impending move of the state offices was announced in November, when ELC Management beat three other developers’ proposals. The plan for the building in South Portland raised questions of accessibility for the mostly low-income clients served by the DHHS, many of whom would have to make a long bus ride to the offices.

Clients of the DHHS and their advocates, along with Democratic lawmakers, have criticized the decision to move services farther from the densely populated and easily accessible downtown area.

Gov. Paul LePage pointed to $23.4 million in savings over 30 years from the deal and said the new building will make it easier for clients to access services provided by both departments.

On Tuesday, Greg Jordan, general manager of the Greater Portland Transit District, said his agency will add a bus stop to serve the office building and will expand service in the area.

Still, other complications could lie ahead for the project.

Tony Toye, one of the other developers who bid on the contract and sought to keep the DHHS in Portland, is now taking legal action.

The state has been paying about $29 per square foot for the space on Marginal Way. Negotiations with ELC Management in December yielded an introductory rate of about $19 per square foot for the first three years of occupancy. After scheduled rent increases, the state will end up paying about $27 per square foot when the deal ends in 2045.

The lease allows the state to back out of the deal if conditions aren’t met, but the agreement doesn’t address whether the DHHS would have to cover the cost of finding interim accommodations if the state waits past the Jan. 31, 2015, for the developer to finish the job.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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