2012-08-10 / In the News

Neighbors still not enamored with project

Planning Board awaits environmental review of assisted-living proposal

An assisted living facility on the corner of Black Point Road and Route 1 that has residents up in arms has again appeared to meet the approval of the town’s Planning Board.

At the Planning Board meeting on Monday, Aug. 6, Andrew Johnston, a civil engineer from SMRT and Tom Gorrill, a traffic engineer with Gorrill and Palmer Consulting Engineers, presented the latest proposal by Wegman Companies to create an 81- unit assisted living facility next to the Citgo station.

The Planning Board gave the project preliminary approval in January, but did not officially act on the latest proposal because the board is waiting for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to complete its review. That is expected later this month.

Scarborough Town Planner Dan Bacon said the meeting was an opportunity for the applicant to showcase any new changes to the plan and for the public to voice any concerns they had with the project proposal. The plan includes the construction of a 59,000- square-foot facility with 81 single bedroom and studio apartments. The facility will also have a 20-room dementia care unit.

One group of citizens, The Friends of Oak Hill, continues to oppose the prospect of the facility moving into the neighborhood due to traffic and environmental concerns.

Jay Phelps, who lives across the street from the site, said he is most concerned about how stormwater and groundwater would run off the property if it were to be developed. The property, he said, has a difficult time stopping the water run off from Route 1 as it is. Adding more impervious surfaces, including a 65- space parking lot, facility driveway and access road around the property, would only make that worse. The water run off, he said, continues past the property into the properties further down on Black Point Road and the nearby streets.

“It is an environmental issue that’s been pushed into a traffic issue,” said Phelps, who came to the meeting with his daughters Jillian and Ruby and held a bottle of water he collected from flooding in his basement.

Johnston said the plan presented will help the problem — not make it worse — due to the bio retention ponds and collection basins on the property and the roof drip strip to collect water that flows from the facility’s roof. Peter Tubbs, a civil engineer retained by the town, concurred with Johnston.

“I think SMRT did a good job with stormwater management and what would happen pre and post development, Tubbs said.

Carol Rancourt, who lives at 23 Black Point Road, said her concern is with the layout of the facility, which is proposed to face Black Point Road.

“I do support the project and I am glad it’s coming in, but I still have some reservations about the site and the direction of the facility itself,” said Rancourt.

Rancourt said she would rather see the facility face either the back of the Citgo station or the vacant “widow’s walk” property next door. This, she added, would reduce the pollution, noise and aesthetics issues for people passing on Black Point Road.

Johnston said he looked at a number of different orientations and layouts for the building and found the current proposal impacted the wetlands on the property the least. It also keeps the Scarborough facility in line with others Wegman Companies operate.

“The building design is being used at other facilities very successfully,” Johnston said. “This is the most practical, most feasible design and works best for the site.”

Lisa Ronco, of 17 Black Point Road, said the Friends of Oak Hill group would like the entrance to the facility, which is 300 feet from the Oak Hill intersection and across the street from her property, reconsidered.“We are in stringent opposition to the entrance and exit on Black Point Road,” Ronco said.

“Our hope is the town and Wegman will devote time and discuss the issue and come up with a better access to the facility,” she added.

Rancourt said an entrance off Route 1 across from Hannaford Drive makes sense.

“I still think the Route 1 entrance makes the most sense for the people of Scarborough,” she said. “It is a signalized entrance, but would have its own issues because there would be some wetlands impacted.

Several years ago, when another developer was interested in the property, an entrance off Route 1 was proposed, but never materialized. Doing so, Johnston said, would have been cost prohibitive and made too much of an impact to the wetlands on the property.

Stephanie Ruel, a resident of the nearby Fairfield Road, said because the entrance is so close to the Oak Hill intersection and Amato’s, one of the busiest eateries in town, the project will impact the traffic that moves along Black Point Road.

Craig Marston, of Woodrock Drive, said he has seen the traffic congestion only get worse on the road.

“I used to pull into my street and not have a problem. Now I have to sit and wait 5 or 10 minutes,” he said. Over a five-day period May 17 to May 22, close to 80,000 vehicles were counted on Black Point Road.

“There are 16,000 cars a day on one of the oldest roads in Scarborough, which has only had the bare minimum of improvements over the years,” Ruel said.

Planning Board member Ron Mazer, who said he travels Black Point Road 10 to 15 times a day, is not convinced traffic is an issue here. Gorrill said the project is expected to create 12 additional trips in the peak morning hour and 14 in the peak afternoon hour. Bill Bray, the town’s traffic engineer, told the board he feels comfortable with Gorrill’s numbers.

“There is a problem with traffic. No one is denying that. There is no simple answer to the issue. However, I don’t see how the project adds to the problem,” Mazer said.

If passed, the Wegman project may actually help traffic on the road as a result. Wegman has agreed to widen Black Point Road to include a left turn lane for vehicles turning onto Route 1 and another left turn lane for vehicles turning into the property. A sidewalk would also be constructed in front of the property.

“To me the key is the road improvement that is being done by the applicant in that intersection,” said Planning Board member John Chamberlain. “I like the design and the landscape. I think this will be a very desirable project for the town.”

“We can’t expect one applicant—the last one through the door—to solve all the world’s problems. I think they are going above and beyond what we would reasonably expect them to do and are expediting some improvements that would not happen for quite some time,” said Planning Board member Cory Fellows.

Planning Board Chairman Allen Paul said the project is not an issue, as long as stormwater and groundwater can be properly managed.

“This applicant is doing a lot to help the town and doesn’t need to,” Paul said. “I really think the applicant is trying to be a good neighbor.”

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