BANGOR, Maine — Faced with complaints from neighbors, the planning board Tuesday night denied a request for a zoning change that would allow a Christian-based day care and preschool to move into the former Forest Avenue Congregational Church.
Meanwhile, the board approved site development plans submitted by Bangor Federal Credit Union, which is planning to open a new branch in the Maine Business Enterprise Park, and by Wendy’s, which is planning to demolish and rebuild its restaurant on Union Street.
In a 6-1 decision, with only Chairman Paul Bolin voting in favor, the board denied the request from Duprey Enterprises Inc. to rezone the 0.52-acre church site at 300 Forest Ave. from urban residential district to government institutional district.
Duprey Enterprises Inc. owns and operates Little Angels Daycare and Preschool, which has three locations in Bangor and one in Old Town. CEO Brian Duprey said even without the planning board’s recommendation, the company will purchase the church property in May to open a Bangor Christian Daycare and Preschool at the site in August.
Initially, they only would use a portion of the building to serve 30 to 40 children. But by 2018, they plan to expand to the entire building in order to serve about 80 children, creating up to a dozen new jobs, he said.
Since the closure of Life Academy Daycare at Grace Church Bangor on Broadway last year, Duprey said there is a need for biblically based early education.
“We’re trying to fill that need,” he said.
But during a public hearing Tuesday, four neighboring residents raised concern about the zone change’s potential to increase traffic in the residential area, open the property to other uses if Duprey were to sell it in the future or lead the way for additional zone changes in the area.
“Quite frankly, it’s already busy enough,” James Hartley, a resident of Stillwater Avenue near the church, said.
Absent a board recommendation, the matter moves to City Council for consideration during its Monday meeting. The council needs a two-thirds majority to overturn the planning board.
Duprey said Wednesday if the council does not overturn the decision, he will open a church at the site in order to operate the day care under the church’s umbrella. The major difference, he said, is that the church will not pay taxes.
“I prefer to give the city tax revenue; but if they don’t want it, that works out fine too,” he said.
As an ordained pastor, Duprey said he would lead the church, which he said would be non-denominational. His preference would be to get the zoning change.
“I just want to pay my taxes,” he said.
According to Planning Officer David Gould, the government institutional district originally was designed for nonprofit operations, such as churches, government offices and schools. In the 1980s, he said, for-profit uses such as medical offices and pre-schools were added to the district.
City code allows churches in the urban residential district as a conditional use of property if they get the approval of the Planning Board. Gould said churches are allowed to operate day care centers, but he was not sure whether Duprey will need to get conditional use approval from the board because the property most recently was used as a church.
Duprey Enterprises already has operated a day care at the site when the church was open. Duprey told the board they served about 45 children at the site from 2005 to 2008. Other day care centers have operated there as well, he said.
Voting unanimously, the board approved Tuesday a site development plan for a 4,700-square-foot building with a drive-thru window at Venture Way and Maine Avenue in the Maine Business Enterprise Park.
Bangor Federal Credit Union CEO Steve Clark said the building will be home to a new branch of the credit union. They hope to begin construction as soon as possible.
Anticipating a 10-month construction period, he said the credit union has secured an option to purchase from the city the property that once was part of Dow Air Force Base. They hope to open the new branch in mid-2016.
Clark projected the new branch would create between four and six new jobs in the Bangor area with some staff expected to transfer from existing locations.
The planning board also approved Tuesday a site development plan that calls for demolishing the existing Wendy’s restaurant at 1049 Union St. and replacing it with a modernized 3,391-square-foot restaurant.
General Manager Bill Lust said the rebuild would be similar to the one at the Wendy’s location near the Bangor Mall.
Exact dates were not available, but Lust said they hope to begin work shortly after getting required approval from the city and hope to reopen this summer.
The new building will modernize the operation as well as give more drive-thru capacity, he said.
Follow Evan Belanger on Twitter at @evanbelanger.