Board to hear latest project plans
If all goes as planned, the Wentworth Intermediate School may not be the only hotly debated construction project to break ground in the Oak Hill section of town this fall.
On Monday, Aug. 6, representatives of Wegman Companies will appear before the Planning Board to share the latest version of a plan to construct an 81-unit assisted living facility near the corner of Route 1 and Black Point Road.
The board, which will not make a final decision on the project at the Aug. 6 meeting, gave the plan preliminary approval in February.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Maine Department of Transportation are currently reviewing the plan. Those reviews are expected to be completed by the end of the month. If the project gets final Planning Board approval, construction is scheduled to begin this fall and be completed by fall 2013.
Before that happens, residents of the neighborhood will get another chance to voice their thoughts on the possibility of the 59,000-square-foot facility being constructed on the 8.5-acre piece of property. The facility would include studio and one-bedroom apartments and have 20 units for dementia patients. All facility residents will be provided three meals a day and offered activities and exercise classes throughout the day. The facility will also help the residents with prescription management, laundry and housekeeping.
Earlier this year, a number of residents came together to form Friends of Oak Hill, a group that has been critical of the project due to the traffic and environmental impact it would have in the area.
“We are glad we have another opportunity to speak again,” said Lisa Ronco, a resident of 17 Black Point Road who has been an active member of Friends of Oak Hill. “This will give the public another chance to speak on this because it has generated a high level of interest among the public.”
The amount of traffic that moves through the area, Ronco said, is her biggest concern. According to a traffic study done May 17 to May 22, more than 79,500 vehicles a day passed by the property. The project is expected to generate 12 additional vehicle trips in the peak morning hour and 16 additional vehicle trips in the afternoon peak hour.
This additional traffic, Ronco said, will only make it harder for her and the other residents in the area to get to and from their properties.
“We are not against assisted living facilities whatsoever,” Ronco said. “It is the location that makes it complicated. It doesn’t seem like Wegman has had to change much in their plan. We would like to see some sort of compromise.”
While those who live closest to the project have been some of the most vocal in their opposition to the project, Rebecca Buyers, who lives on Cammock Road, just east of the project site, said Friends of Oak Hill is opposing the project with the best interests of the entire town in mind.
“We are not just fighting this for ourselves,” Buyers said. “We are fighting this for the entire town.”
Buyers said one of her major concerns is how the project is going to change the existing condition of the area, especially in terms of storm water run off.
“These are complex issues, but in a lot of ways, it is simple. There is going to be more traffic, more congestion, more water, more erosion and more pollution,” Buyers said.
Jay Phelps, who lives at 15 Black Point Road, said how the project impacts the environment is his biggest concern with the proposed development.
“Environmentally, it is disastrous,” Phelps said. “They are putting this huge structure on a wetland. It is going to wreak havoc in the area.”
Phelps said if the development moves in, the storm water, which now collects in the wetlands on the property, will continue along toward the houses on Black Point Road and the streets that run off it.
Joan Jagolinzer, a resident of the nearby Cedarbrook Condominiums, is concerned the DEP review won’t totally address the environmental impact the project has on her condo and others in the development.
“Even though the DEP can only approve or disapprove a permit based on a set of rules, there are issues beyond that review that could impact storm water draingage downhill of the property. Our concern is the town will approve it just because DEP does. The DEP rules are not as strong as they could be,” Jagolinzer said.
Phelps said he is frustrated there have been no major changes to the plan despite vocal opposition from him and other residents in town.
“There are no changes. They are basically trying to bulldoze this through,” Phelps said. “My knowledge, at this point, is, there has been no discourse about making any real changes.”
Phelps said the Black Point Road property is not the only place an assisted living facility could go.
“The project could go in so many other places in Scarborough besides where they are trying to jam it in,” Phelps said, adding Haigis Parkway or farther south along Route 1 are more viable alternatives.
Wegman Companies, however, strategically chose the site on Black Point Road.
“The goal of the project is to develop the site to construct an accessible and attractive elderly housing facility to serve the residents of Scarborough and the surrounding area. The project site is ideally located for this purpose as it is within easy walking and driving distance to town amenities and is adequately serviced by municipal utilities and roadway infrastructure. The projects represents the best use of the property given the current zoning and minimal traffic generation associated with the proposed facility,” Andrew Johnston, a consultant for the project wrote in a project narrative. Johnston is a senior engineer with SMRT, an engineering, architecture and planning firm with an office in Portland.
Phelps wondered if another assisted living facility is really needed in town.
“This is not about the common good for the people,” he said. “It is not about what is good for Scarborough.”
If the project does get built, Phelps hopes it is in a way that is least disruptive to the abutters as possible.
“I’d like to see them insulate the property from the rest of the neighborhood as possible. If they are going to build it, I hope they do the right thing for the people that live here because it is going to be a mess,” Phelps said.
Ronco hopes all the public comment does not fall on deaf ears.
“It’s been quite the journey. We have learned a lot. As peaceful as possible, we are trying to have our voice heard and get the facts out there. We hope the town is listening,” Ronco said.
Johnston and Joe McEntee, vice president of senior housing for Wegman Companies, could not be reached for comment.
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