2014-09-12 / In the News

Workshop’s goal is ‘implementation’ of Dunstan area plan

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

A packed table at a neighborhood meeting in Oak Hill may help decide the future of Dunstan Corner. A group of residents, business owners and other interested parties met Monday, Sept. 8 to collect thoughts about what should be done in Dunstan Corner. The meeting is part of the town’s revitalization effort in that area of town. According to the Scarborough Historical Society, Dunstan dates back to around 1651.

Town staff, including Town Manager Tom Hall and Town Planner Dan Bacon told the Leader earlier this month the vision for the area is to restore it as self-sufficient area with the amenities residents need to live.

This effort comes on the heels of a similar effort done last year by Sustain Southern Maine, which proposed creating a new “Main Street,” complete with commercial buildings, mixed use building, residences and a series of interconnected roads and sidewalks on a swath of land northwest of Route 1 between Broadturn Road and the new Payne Road connector.

The 2006 Comprehensive Plan has a similar vision: “Dunstan Corner will be a renewed village with nice shops, cafes, walkways and parks. Auto traffic will be safely managed. A trail will branch out and connect with the Audubon Center, Old Eastern Road and the beach at Pine Point. Attached and clustered housing will create an affordable and lively neighborhood for young and old. Field and farms south of Dunstan will be preserved as a gateway to Saco.”

“We see this as one additional step in trying to attract the type of businesses, types of uses that will make it more of a little neighborhood center or village the people in the immediate area could use versus going to Oak Hill or traveling to the Maine Mall,” Bacon said last week.

Planning Decisions Vice President Frank O’Hara, who served as a moderator for the discussion, said the meeting was “about implementation, not creating a new vision.”

Restoring Dunstan as a village may be difficult, said Steve Strout, a resident of Surrey Lane.

“We can’t forget Route 1 is not going to get rolled up and go away,” he said, adding while he likes to be able to walk to get ice cream at the Dairy Corner or lobster at Pine Tree Seafood and Produce, development has “limits because we have a four-lane highway” going through Dunstan.

Strout said before the area gets development, the existing problems — primarily traffic congestion on the Route 1 artery— need to be addressed.

Scott Berube said creating a village as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan or Sustain Southern Maine work would come as no small cost to the town.

“I appreciate the village things, but we would have to spend millions of dollars, don’t be fooled, to create a village behind the artery,” he said.

Pine Point resident Elaine Richter is not so sure such development is needed.

“I timed it from Dunstan to Oak Hill and it takes six minutes. I don’t know we need to have a grocery store. I don’t know if we need to have banks. I don’t know that we need to have a village that has all the services we have somewhere else.”

The term village can mean different things to different people. Judy Roy, a member of the town’s long range Planning Committee, said to her a village is a “walkable community that has the amenities you need without going to a big box store.”

“When I came to town in 1952, Dunstan, to me, was a village,” she said. “We had an IGA store, antiques store and Murray’s pharmacy.”

The area still has a number of amenities, including a hardware store, pharmacy, convenience store, medical offices and a series of other small businesses and restaurants.

That is not to say those in the area wouldn’t welcome additional businesses or residences in their neighborhood. Strout said a “family-style restaurant” would be welcome in the area, perhaps on the corner of Broadturn Road and Route 1.

Karen Martin, executive director of the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation, said she tries to “steer restaurants toward Dunstan”

Bob Harrisburg, who owns property at 581 Route 1 and 605 Route 1, has turned down businesses looking to move onto his properties, including three restaurants, a grocery store and day care facilities for adults and children, because they didn’t have the “staying power” to be successful.

“You have to be careful what you put on your properties, because if it fails, your property fails,” Harrisburg said.

Harrisburg has some ideas about how the area could be developed, but said “What I have in mind, who I have in mind, will stay in my mind.”

Berube said right now the town should let the market play out.

“It’s not going to take a bakery to revitalize the area. We need to let the market develop and really focus on infrastructure,” he said. “If the market is there for it, it will happen.”

Southern Maine Indoor Flea Market owner, Scott Hatch, said one possible infrastructure improvement could be to move utilities, such as power lines, underground like has been done along Haigis Parkway.

“I don’t know if that is possible, but if you are looking to clean up the area, that’s the only real thing I can think of,” Hatch said, adding if it was implemented, it would be an “amazing change to the area.”

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