The Bangor City Council on Monday approved a controversial zone change for a 0.2-acre parcel at 490 Broadway, changing the zoning from residential to commercial in a 7-2 vote.
The zone change was requested by Ed Goff, a Skowhegan-based businessman who runs two locations for Fast Eddie’s Car Wash in Brunswick and Augusta. Goff hopes to open a third Fast Eddie’s location at 490 Broadway, a 0.6-acre parcel of which 0.4 acres were zoned as an Urban Service District, and 0.2 acres in the rear of the property were zoned as Urban Residence One.
The property was formerly home to Bangor Redemption and Beverage Center, which closed in December 2018. Goff intends to demolish the old redemption center building to build the car wash.
The site falls within a fifth-of-a-mile corridor that saw more than 80 crashes between 2015 and 2017, according to a Maine Department of Transportation analysis. A proposal in 2019 to overhaul that stretch of Broadway included plans to only allow right turns from Earle Avenue onto Broadway, and to eventually move the on-ramp to Interstate 95 southbound. None of those plans have been implemented yet.
Several residents of Little City, the Bangor neighborhood that abuts that section of Broadway, spoke out against the zone change, saying that it would increase traffic in a section of the busy thoroughfare that already sees a number of traffic jams and accidents, and would force cars down quiet, narrow residential streets, upsetting the tranquility of the neighborhood.
“This plan will make the area less safe,” said Little City resident Judith Rosenbaum-Andre. “Cars will end up backing up toward the southbound exit and onramp to the highway. We’re not well-informed about what might happen. This runs counter to the recommendations made in 2019.”
Councilor Gretchen Schaefer noted that approving a zone change is not the same as approving a site plan, and that regardless of what ends up being built at that location, a zone change would almost certainly need to happen.
“At some point, this zone is going to need to be updated, whether it’s tonight or six months from now. It’s a bit of a nonconformity at this point,” said Schaefer, also noting that the opposite could happen, and the city could rezone the entire property as Urban Residence One.
City engineer John Theriault said that he was initially concerned about the zone change request, given the area’s traffic woes, but said he was pleased by the research Goff had already done to address those early concerns, and noted that Goff was already experienced in negotiating traffic concerns with his other two car washes in Brunswick and Augusta, both of which are also on busy thoroughfares.
Councilor Clare Davitt, who lives less than a quarter of a mile from 490 Broadway, said that she trusted the city’s planning and engineering departments to make sure any site plan took into consideration all of the concerns expressed by nearby residents.
City councilors Dan Tremble and Jonathan Sprague voted against the zone change.