FARMINGTON — Proponents of a proposed biomass heating plant for the University of Maine at Farmington said they will address concerns raised by neighbors about aesthetics and truck traffic at an upcoming public hearing.

About a dozen residents and the Farmington Planning Board listened to a presentation Monday night on the proposed Quebec Street boiler system, which also could heat the Farmington Community Center.

The residents voiced concerns about the appearance of a 50-foot smokestack and asked whether the building would clash with residential zoning in the village and whether delivery truck traffic would disrupt the neighborhood.

Project representatives said the smokestack would be obscured partially by the building, and that truck deliveries could be coordinated on routes and at delivery times acceptable to the town. The building also would have a brick exterior designed to match the rest of the university architecture.

“There has been some thought to make it fit in with the university,” said Mark Power, team leader from Trane Inc., a climate engineering and construction firm that is contracted to build the energy system.

Tom Perkins, of Dirigo Architectural, which is overseeing the project for UMF, said there are examples of biomass boilers in the area, such as at Mallet Elementary School and Mt. Blue High School.

“A biomass solution is very common,” he said.

Perkins said the wood chip boiler system, which would connect via heating pipes to the university buildings, would have a scrubbing device to remove 99 percent of the ash particles. The ash would be composted.

The central heating plant was intended originally to be powered by natural gas. However, after Summit Natural Gas of Maine endured multiple delays in its proposed construction schedule and ultimately said the pipeline couldn’t be built until 2016, university leadership said the school could not wait and eventually switched to pursuing biomass.

The University of Maine System previously said the natural gas project would save UMF an estimated $4 million over 10 years. UMF never finished negotiating with Summit on the project and never announced a projected cost for bringing natural gas to the campus.

The biomass central heating plant is expected to cost about $11 million and is projected eventually to save UMF $11 million in heating costs over a 10-year period.

The heating plant is proposed to be built in parking lot 9, which is off Quebec Street behind St. Joseph Catholic Church. It would take up 22 existing parking spaces, but Jeff McKay, director of facilities management for UMF, said the school is over capacity for parking and can absorb the new construction.

The 5,885-square-foot heating plant would have a loading bay on the Middle Street side.

Planning Board member Lloyd Smith said he was concerned about the possibility of tractor-trailers idling 20 to 30 minutes in the loading bay while the chips are offloaded.

Board member Matt Smith asked for more information about the effect of the tractor-trailers driving on Quebec Street to make deliveries, and he asked whether the trucks could travel on the narrow street.

Quebec Street resident Virginia Woodman said she was concerned about the effect of tractor-trailers driving down the quiet street to make deliveries.

Resident Matt McCourt, a UMF associate professor of geography, said he lives at the corner of Quebec and Perham streets and was concerned about whether the trucks would fit on the small side roads and would disrupt the neighborhood.

Some residents wondered whether the building would comply with the zoning code in the area, but Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser said the heating plant would be considered part of the university operations and acceptable under the ordinance.

Board member William Marceau said the tractor-trailer traffic might be comparable to fully loaded plow trucks and other traffic already on the street.

Perkins and Power said they would bring back more information on the trucks and the route for a public hearing and vote by the Planning Board at its next meeting at 6 p.m. March 9 at the Town Office.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]