2015-07-24 / Community News

Council OKs food processor use in effort to boost Haigis

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

For years town officials have been waiting to see Haigis Parkway filled with a collection of retail and commercial uses, but outside of the development near Payne Road and a couple properties closer to Route 1, the parcels along the roadway have largely gone undeveloped.

The Town Council last week approved another use that could bring a growing industry to the roadway, which connects the Maine Turnpike to Route 1, by allowing food processors to locate on the southern section of Haigis Parkway.

The idea was also unanimously supported by Planning Board members at their July 13 meeting.

“We’re always looking to update our zoning to make sure economic development is working and make sure our zoning ordinance has plenty of areas for the type of development happening in the region,” Karen Martin, executive director of Scarborough Economic Development Corporation, said at the Planning Board meeting.

Martin, who worked with the Long Range Planning Committee and planning staff to draft the zoning and ordinance change, said the region is becoming a “powerhouse” in the food processing industry. Haigis Parkway, she said, is ideal for such use because of the logistics and proximity to both Route 1 and the Maine Turnpike. Food processing is already allowed in Scarborough’s industrial zones, but those zones are almost at maximum capacity.

“I can’t say we have one waiting in the wings, but we have had three or four inquiries over the last couple years regarding that type of use. To date we have had to say ‘No, it’s not allowed,’” Town Manager Tom Hall said late last week.

Food processing will not be allowed on the entire Haigis Parkway stretch, only within 2,250 feet of the Scottow Hill Road intersection.

“We want to keep the integrity of the zone’s look and feel, but see if we can allow some food processing, if they meet certain standards set before them,” Martin said.

Martin said the standards were written to be “extremely rigorous” to prevent odor or excess noise pollution. The standards state that food processing facilities must not “create any unhealthy or offensive odors, emissions or other airborne discharges” or “offensive noise or vibration to abutting landowners.” The facilities are not permitted to store “equipment, materials or processing by-product or waste” outdoors.

Planning Board member John Dupont supported the change, but only if the standards gave the town the power to enforce odor and noise violations.

“I am for the project, but if we have some place that is very offensive to everybody, how do we correct that problem” he asked. “If we don’t have something in place, I am not in favor of it at this stage.”

“I am all in favor of development, but we don’t need something we can’t stop because of our ordinance,” he continued.

Susan Auglis, a member of the Long Range Planning Committee and alternate Planning Board member, said the change has been “well-vetted.”

“This really seems like it is going to work well in Scarborough. We are so well positioned,” she said July 13.

Planning Board Chairman Corey Fellows, who also serves on the Long Range Planning Committee, said food processing facilities have come a long way over the years.

“The type of business attracted to this district is the next generation and not your grandfather’s food processing facility,” Fellows said.

According to the town’s Zoning Ordinance, food processing facilities are buildings or land that “Process food, seafood or agricultural product for consumption primarily off site” and include “such activities as commercial bakeries, breweries, bottling facilities, dairies, lobster pounds and facilities for commercial food processing or packaging.” They do not include “a use in which the principal activity is the rendering, storage or treatment of animal or fish waste.”

Nevertheless, Fellows did have some reservations about making the change.

“It’s a good attempt to strike a good balance, but I certainly have some concerns about enforcement,” he said, adding enforcement tends to always be an issue any time a new ordinance is proposed or put into place.

Both Town Councilors and Planning Board members were excited by the change’s potential to bring new business to the Haigis Parkway area.

“Anything we can do to generate business on Haigis Parkway I am for because it has gone vacant for too long,” said Planning Board member Ron Mazer.

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