Ocean House Common, a four-lot subdivision, will include a town green on a 4-acre lot at 326 Ocean House Road, next to Cape Elizabeth Town Hall. Jane Vaughan / The Forecaster

CAPE ELIZABETH — Plans for a village-style subdivision are moving forward as phase one of a proposal to build a town-centered project received Planning Board and Town Council approval.

Dentist David Jacobson is proposing Ocean House Common, a four-lot subdivision that would include a town green on a 4-acre lot at 326 Ocean House Road, next to Town Hall.

Phase one of the proposed development, which includes a ¾-acre town green and a dental office with second-story apartments, was initially approved in May by the Planning Board. A vegetative buffer on the eastern side of the property is protected by an easement, and vegetation will also be preserved on the southern boundary, according to the plan.

Landscape architect John Mitchell, representing Jacobson, came back to the Planning Board Tuesday after receiving initial approval from the Town Council on Monday for some adjustments to the plan. The updated site plan for the subdivision was unanimously approved by the Planning Board on Tuesday and the Planning Board also moved forward on granting sub-division approval for Ocean House Commons.

Dr. David Jacobson of Two Lights Dental is proposing to build Ocean House Common and create a town center in Cape Elizabeth. Jane Vaughan / The Forecaster

The changes, according to town documents, include sharing up to 10 parking spaces behind Town Hall that town officials say are underutilized; an easement allowing pedestrian and vehicular traffic to access town hall on the development’s private road; and a drainage easement allowing runoff from Town Hall to flow to infiltration basins on the Ocean House Commons property.

The project aligns with the town’s desire to create a town center, a central area that is pedestrian-friendly with a common meeting place and easy access to open space and nearby residential neighborhoods.

A town-center plan was originally proposed in 1993, and an updated version was approved by the Town Council in 2014 after recommendations made by nine-member town committee.

https://www.capeelizabeth.com/news/2019/ocean_house_common_agreements.html

The planning board also approved Mitchell’s request to increase the size of the two-story dental office building, which was initially proposed at 7,144-square-feet, to allow for three instead of two apartments.

The subdivision has been approved and the proposed dental office has the necessary approvals to move forward, though any projects suggested for the other three sites will need to receive review and approval by the Planning Board. There are no proposals before the town for any of the other three lots, said Town Planner Maureen O’Meara. She said she did not have a timeline for the completion of the dental office.

Some residents at Tuesday’s meeting said they had concerns about the proposal, including a vernal pool that was destroyed.

Suzanne McGuinn said she was upset that work to clear the subdivision had eliminated a vernal pool – a shallow wetland that serves as a habitat for local plants and animals. McGuinn said Jacobson had hired environmental consultant Lauren Stockwell, who determined that there were no vernal pools of significance, which require protection by the Natural Resource Protection Act. After getting the report approved by the necessary government agencies, Jacobson went ahead with the work that destroyed a vernal pool on the property.

Planning Board members James Huebener and Andrew Gilbert asked Town Planner Maureen O’Meara about any studies done on the property prior to Stockwell’s study, and she said she was unaware of any previous studies, which may have been conducted privately.

McGuinn said Stockwell’s study was conducted in 2016, which was a particularly dry year. She said a study done in 2014 determined that the vernal pool on the 236 Ocean House Road property had a significant fairy shrimp population.

“I’m here today to try to prevent environmental quality going forward,” she said, suggesting the town implement stricter guidelines to protect its natural habitat.

Planning board member Jonathan Sahrbeck said all necessary steps had been followed, and if residents wanted to make town laws stricter, they should go to the Town Council.

Mitchell said he had registered the report with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and was given the necessary approvals for the work that had been done.

O’Meara said the town had acted appropriately when granting a permit for the wetland to be altered. She said determining whether a pool is significant is based on a scientific definition, and the applicant had hired a professional who had determined the pool was not “significant.”

“Just because you find salamander or fairy shrimp eggs doesn’t mean it’s a significant vernal pool,” said O’Meara.

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