ROCKLAND, Maine — Planning Board Chairman Erik Laustsen said Wednesday that a decision on whether a proposed five-story downtown building meets local design standards will be difficult.
The planning board listened Tuesday night to a more than two-hour presentation on the proposed Starfire Building, to be built at 12 Winter St. in what is now a parking lot owned by Winter Street LLC in the rear of the Dowling Walsh Gallery on Main Street.
The current design features a lot of reflective glass on the building’s exterior. The issue is whether that would fit with the city’s design standard, which calls for buildings in that zone to be in character with other buildings on Main Street.
A formal public hearing and possible final vote will be held Tuesday, Oct. 20, at City Hall, according to Rockland Code Enforcement Officer John Root.
The Starfire Building would house retail stores at street level and storage for high-end artwork on the upper levels.
Laustsen said Wednesday that design standards have been the focal point of three recent large development proposals, but that this one is the most difficult.
“I have questions on whether this meets the standards,” he said.
Design standards also were debated when the Center for Maine Contemporary Art went before the planning board last year. The board ultimately voted for the project despite concerns by some members that a 52-foot wall with windows lining the top did not meet city standards. The center’s building, located diagonally across the proposed Starfire Building, remains under construction.
The issue also arose during a June 2014 meeting to review a proposed five-story boutique hotel at Main and Pleasant streets. Some neighbors argued that the building did not fit into the character of the neighborhood.
City Attorney Kevin Beal issued an opinion to the board concerning the hotel in 2014 indicating that the city’s site plan ordinance requiring new structures to be compatible with nearby buildings might be vague and unenforceable.
Beal said Wednesday, however, that opinion did not address the design standards. He said he has not been asked yet to render an opinion on the design standards.
The hotel gained approval and remains under construction.
Laustsen conceded there are holes in city ordinances regarding design standards. He said the board will have three weeks to think about it before the next meeting.