DAMARISCOTTA — After extended debate and mixed comments from the public, the planning board voted unanimously Dec. 4 to approve a three-building development on 435 Main St.

The development would install three separate buildings at the property, a 22,000-square-foot building for retail, a 5,525-square-foot building for smaller retail or restaurant use, and a 2,700-square-foot bank. The approval came after eight meetings, and a plea from the developers for clarity.

“I guess I feel that each month we take a step forward and a couple steps back,” said Andrew Sturgeon, representing the developers, at the start of the board’s consideration of the plan. He said given the numerous “re-looks” at different parts of the plan, the developers were left unclear as to whether they were meeting requirements or not.

“I’d like to hope we can make some decisions and not go back on the same ones. If there’s new evidence, that’s fine.”

Sturgeon’s comment was highlighted by an email sent by the Planning Advisory Committee to the town’s select board, which the planning board was included in. The email cited the 435 Main Street project and the committee’s belief that a waiver to include parking at the front of the development shouldn’t be passed.

Many planning board members, and the developer, had no chance to see the email before the meeting.

“The PAC believes that waivers should only be granted in cases of extreme hardship or when there is a clear community benefit to waiving legal requirements,” stated the email to the select board.

Some planning board members, and a former member of the select board in attendance, said they felt the letter was nothing but a suggestion, and unless they made a decision it shouldn’t impact the planning board.

The developers also felt deciding anything on a potential future directive from the select board would be unfair.

“We can only go on the rules that you have on the books now; we feel we’ve followed all these rules,” said Daniel Catlin, CEO of Commercial Properties, Inc., who proposed the project.

The parking waiver was the subject of heavy debate at the meeting, with the planning board divided on whether it was appropriate for the area. Board member Adam Maltese felt the plans didn’t meet the suggested requirements for screening from the road.

“It’s that screened-from-view that gives me pause. We’re allowed to grant that waiver as long as its screened from view,” said Maltese.

The applicant asserted that additional screening had already been installed at the board’s request, including a berm in front of parking intended to screen the lot entirely from view. However, Maltese said he believed the codes meant screening the building, something the developer objected to.

“The reason we’re here is people want to be seen from the street. It’s a commercial zone,” said Catlin.

Other board members agreed with Catlin, and felt any comments made by the PAC were irrelevant to the decision.

“As far as I’m concerned, the screening looks good to me. We are allowed to do this, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t vote on this,” said Board Chair Jonathan Eaton.

Ultimately, the board voted 3 – 2 to approve the parking waiver.

The vote was then followed by some debate over stormwater management, and whether it was adequate for the site. The developers had already optained a Department of Environmental Protection permit for their stormwater management.

In the end, the board approved the development with three conditions. One condition is that they get a copy of the DEP permit for the record. Another is that approval is only valid if the project receives a permit from the Maine Department of Transportation. The third condition has to do with re-aligning a deeded right-of-way possessed by the Lincoln County Rifle Club.

Catlin was understandably pleased by the project’s approval.

“Damariscotta is a great community, so I’m looking forward to coming down here and being a part of it,” he said.

He added that, possibly due to all the media coverage of the at-times controversial project, there are already a number of prospective tenants.

“We’ll be going full steam ahead on the leasing,” said Catlin. “We’ve got several interested parties.”