Gentrification fears raised by one homeowner
KITTERY, Maine — A proposed condominium and marina project is drawing fire from neighbors, who say it would affect the small-town character of their narrow road that dead ends on the Piscataqua River.
And at least one homeowner wonders whether it will be the beginning of a gentrification of Kittery that she doesn’t want to see.
But the owner of the property says he will work with the neighbors, and has already modified plans to address initial concerns about safety and parking.
At issue is a proposal to tear down a house that currently contains three apartments, as well as a detached garage and build three condominiums. The property at 15 Old Armory Way extends to the water, where owner Ken McDavitt also proposes to build a 12-slip marina with water, electricity and internet access.
The application is in the initial stages before the Planning Board, which has accepted it as complete but in two meetings has raised a host of concerns about the plan going forward.
The plans have to be approved by the Kittery Port Authority, as well.
“Can you imagine a marina with 12 boat slips? Where are they all going to fit? It’s horrendous. I can’t believe the town is even considering it,” said Clara Newcomer, of 14 Old Armory Way.
McDavitt, of Sanbornville, N.H., said he has owned the property since 2006, and is a boater himself. He plans to move into one of the condominiums, if he gets permission for the project, and put his boat at the marina.
The dock space would be built at the end of an existing pier on the property. Parking would need to be cleared from a wooded area at the end of the road.
He said he will “absolutely” listen to abutters’ concerns, saying “this is a neighborhood.” He said he has even offered slips to Old Armory Way residents, and several said they were interested.
Terry Lochhead, who lives across the street from 15 Old Armory Way, said she is deeply concerned about the proposal. She and others have formed a neighborhood coalition and plan to get out ahead of the issue now, while plans are still in the early stages.
The biggest concern is about the parking lot for the marina, she said. “There’s concern up and down the street about how those parking spaces are going to affect the neighborhood,” she said.
Lochhead said the coalition, which currently represents about 15 people, wonders about additional traffic, noise, and on-street parking from the marina and the condominiums.
“Right now if the oil man comes and parks out front, someone has to wait a few minutes to get by. The street’s so narrow,” she said.
Armistead Dennett, who sold the house to McDavitt, said he is mostly concerned about the intrusion of a large dock into the back channel of the Piscaqua River. He said the channel is “rather narrow” in that area, and he’s concerned about disruption in the water.
McDavitt has agreed to increase condo parking from 1.5 spaces as allowed by zoning to two spaces. But he said this week he doesn’t want to decrease the number of boat slips.
Planning Board chairman Tom Emerson said at a recent board meeting that the marina was “the elephant in the room,” saying the number of slips should be reduced.
McDavitt said he does not want “interrupt the quaintness of the area. The buildings will have similar architecture of the Kittery Foreside area” and will be set off the street, unlike the current building, which he said could enhance views of those across the street.
“I hope to live there myself. I want to be a good neighbor,” he said.
Lochhead said she is concerned about what the project heralds for the future of Kittery.
“Kittery is a hotspot and it’s under pressure to develop fast. I think this (proposal) is the beginning of something new,” she said. “What is the future that we want? Is this a view of the future?”
She said her group plans to hold a public meeting about the proposal in the next several weeks and invites people to email the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.