November 13, 2017

Boothbay appeals board halts $30M Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens' expansion

Courtesy / Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Courtesy / Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
An architect's rendering shows what the entry way to the new visitor center at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay would look like when completed. Designed by Steven Blatt Architects of Portland, this two- and three-story shingled building will provide three times the square footage of the current single-story visitor center.

The Boothbay Board of Appeals rescinded the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens' permit for a $30 million expansion that has already begun.

The Bangor Daily News reported the board favored an appeal by CMBG abutters, who said the $30 million expansion would further degrade the water quality of nearby Knickerbocker Lake, which is part of the public water supply for the Boothbay region.

The appeals board upheld the abutters' argument that the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens — which in 10 years has become one of largest public gardens in the country, ranking among the top 10% — had classified itself as a museum rather than an educational facility, which is a use not permitted in the watershed. The board's 3-2 decision came months after construction started on the CMBG's multi-year $30 million expansion, which includes a new visitor center and gift shop, a restaurant in the existing visitor center, a 16,000-square-foot horticulture research and production facility, a nearly six-story conservatory, expanded parking, formal gardens and trails.

The appeals board supported CMBG's expansion, which had been approved by the town's Planning Board, on all other issues cited in the abutters' appeal, the newspaper reported.

Kris Folsom, CMBG'S director of marketing, told the newspaper that the botanical garden complied with the town's zoning ordinance, adding that the organization would go to court "to correct the Board of Appeals' unfortunate error."

A decade of rapid growth

Courtesy / Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Courtesy / Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
An architect's rendering shows what the new year-round glass conservatory and gardens when completed in 2019-2020.

According to CMBG's website, when the botanical gardens opened 10 years ago, its facilities were designed to accommodate 40,000 guests annually. In 2016, it had almost 190,000 guests.

Between 2007 and 2017, its staff grew from 10 full-time and 12 part-time employees to 52 full-time and 50 part-time employees.

"Implementation of our second master plan, which we began creating in 2012, will provide a quality experience for guests in the future," CMBG stated on its website. "We've been working with the best designers and engineers in the country to ensure our plans meet or exceed all state and federal regulations. Over 200 professionals, staff, board members and stakeholders worked together to complete this comprehensive and elegant plan with four primary goals: to build capacity so we could properly serve our current and future guests; to foster year-round visitation; to strengthen programming in our key mission areas of horticulture, education, and research; and to continue to be a model for best practices surrounding fiscal and environmental sustainability."

The timeline for its expansion project extends to 2022, with conversion of the current visitor center to a restaurant pavilion being scheduled for 2018-2019, construction of the research and propagation facility to take place in 2018-2019, glass conservatory and gardens in 2019-2020 and an expanded education facility in 2021-2022.

Read more

Judge rules Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens can proceed with expansion

Botanical Gardens pursues lawsuit over rescinded $30M expansion permit


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