A new rendering of the Wilbur’s Woods apartment building shows a two-and-a-half-story building in the development planned for McKeen Street. The Brunswick Planning Board approved the new design on May 14 as part of a pending appeal that residents filed against the affordable housing project earlier this year. Courtesy of GreenMars Real Estate

The Brunswick Planning Board, after an evening of flip-flopping opinions, approved a reworked apartment building design for the Wilbur’s Woods development.

The new rendering shows a two-story building with an additional half story of apartments in the gables. The approved design, which drew both negative and positive feedback from residents, essentially removes one story from the previous design proposed for the development.

The approval comes after the Zoning Board asked the Planning Board in April to revisit its decision on the architectural compatibility of the apartment building with the neighborhood. The request came as part of a ruling that rejected most arguments listed in an appeal that residents filed against the project earlier this year.

The Planning Board entertained two decisions on the design — one to approve the new rendering submitted by the developer, GreenMars, and one to delay approval and look into possible aesthetic improvements on the building. After going back and forth on how the members wanted to proceed with Wilbur’s Woods design, the board eventually voted unanimously to OK the new building.

The flip-flop came after an initial tie vote, 2-2, to approve the design. Three members of the board — M. Kelly Matzen, Bill Dana and Chris Baldwin — did not vote as they were either not present or did not vote at the January meeting where the design was first approved.

Board member Alison Harris, who originally voted with board member Rob Burgess against the design, said her initial decision was “difficult” and that she had also taken into consideration many comments sent in writing in favor of the project. What held her back from immediate approval, she said, was that she believed improvements could still be made to the design, such as a more “interesting façade.”

Advertisement

“I could live with the building as its presented tonight. I do have a view that it can be improved — and I hope at not great expense, as I would like the units to remain as affordable as possible and without necessarily affecting this rear setback,” Harris said during a second round of deliberations.

The brief tie drew applause from residents opposed to the complex and, with a suggested motion to delay a decision given the tie, Robert M. Liscord, an attorney representing GreenMars, pushed back. He said tabling “did not make sense” and urged the board to only focus on the narrow premise of the meeting, which was to address whether the apartment building met design standards set by town ordinance.

Board members Art Boulay and Arthur Pierce supported the design throughout the back and forth.

“While this is a change from what people are used to in that particular lot, it is compatible both with the needs for housing in Brunswick and with the general neighborhood,” Pierce said.

“It’s an intense ending,” Chris Marshall of GreenMars said after the board finally approved the design.

Marshall said that after the appeal, the project is about 120 days behind schedule. Construction would likely begin in late July, Marshall said, adding that the affordability of the project will not be impacted.

Advertisement

The apartment building would be less than 35 feet tall, GreenMars said at the hearing. The company argued the size was well within the height range of other more dense developments in the neighborhood, such as the building at 24 Baribeau Drive.

In challenging the plans, residents argued the design didn’t match other neighborhood structures in design, size and mass. At the hearing, residents opposing the project argued that the building is too large compared to the single-family homes in the area.

Chris Teel, the Brunswick resident who filed the appeal on behalf of 52 residents neighboring the development site, had urged the Planning Board at the meeting to not approve the design and to consider how the design will impact residents who already live in the neighborhood.

“It’s risky for [the Planning Board], I think, to proceed with this,” he said.

The appeal against Wilbur’s Woods, which is pending, will be revisited by the Zoning Board on June 6.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.