“Let’s not gloss over this,” said long-time Planning Board member and attorney David Silk, earlier this week. “There is a wetland there of some significance. I know that time is of the essence. We could end up with a natural wetland gone.” At times, Silk, an environmental and land use attorney, addressed the Mercy Hospital president directly and by name – “Charlie.”
The occasion was a planning board workshop held on Tuesday, November 26 afternoon. It was to consider a proposal for a 20,140 sq. ft. expansion at the 175 Fore River Parkway campus – intended to replace the obsolete 144 State Street building.
At issue, is the over three acres of a former gravel pit that now contains a man made pond and is the wetland Silk referred to. The proposed expansion would cover the pond. The pond, beside the Hospital, is barely visible because it is densely shrouded by shrubs – even at this time of the year.
At the outset of the workshop, Charlie Therrien, told the board that “We are running a duplicate of services with the State Street hospital.” He also said that this project is much smaller than planned a decade ago because medical needs are smaller. Patient stays in hospitals are shorter than they used to. “This project reduces costs cause there will be no more duplication,” he said. Therrien, has over 35 years as a healthcare executive on his resume and attended Babson College where his degree is in Finance. He became president of Mercy Hospital three years ago.
While other board members agreed with Silk’s comment on the loss of wetlands, there was also a call for more vegetation islands in the parking area, a request for a more “robust” entry way for patients and that the appurtenances need to be more integrated with the building rather than appearing to stand alone as they do on the roof of the building. There was also some discussion about whether or not there was too much signage on the building, another issue raised by Caitlin Cameron, Urban Planner for the City of Portland.
Chair Dundon emphasized that there will be many more opportunities for public input. Two people spoke in favor of the proposal.
It is anticipated that Mercy will announce the future use of the obsolete State Street building early next year.