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Plans for hotel suites OK'd

By Rachel M. Collins
[email protected]

YORK, Maine - York developer Don Rivers has been given the go-ahead to convert the historic Kearsarge House at York Beach into 19 hotel suites.

"Hooray, hooray," said Rivers, after the York Planning Board agreed to the conversion of the 100-year-old building on Railroad Avenue and Main Street.

It has taken about a year for the plan to wend its way through local boards and zoning ordinance changes.

Part of the final plan will allow the units to have off-site parking under a lease agreement behind The Black Dog, a York Beach business within 300 feet of the units.

Because a clerical technicality prevented the Planning Board from taking a vote at Thursday's meeting, Rivers did not get approval for a conversion of The Atlantic House nearby.

Rivers first presented his plan to local officials nearly three years ago for transforming the 19th-century Atlantic House into an upscale restaurant and shops, topped by two floors of condominiums.

Now the board is due to vote on that conversion at its Feb. 21 meeting.

Rivers said his plans are to begin work on the Atlantic House first - if he is able to get Planning Board approval - since contractors already have started demolishing it and the Kearsarge House still can be used as is.

Cathy Goodwin, president and chief executive officer of the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce, told the Planning Board that the building conversions are "a major underpinning of our renaissance of the beach." The York Beach Renaissance Committee has spent two years developing a plan that would revitalize York Beach.

The plan at the Kearsarge House is to eventually convert the two-bedroom, two-bath hotel suites to be built into condominiums that could be sold.

But Barrie Munro, chairman of the Planning Board, cautioned that Thursday night's vote and review "does not involve any discussion of condominium conversion or any discussion of the growth cap permitting process."

Under York's current growth ordinance, a growth permit would be required for each of the 23 total hotel units in the Kearsarge House and Atlantic House to be converted into condominiums for private sale.

Project planners at Thursday's meeting estimated that if the current growth permitting process in York stayed as is, that could mean it would be the year 2038 before all 23 units could be converted into condominiums.

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