2017-12-29 / Front Page

A look back at stories of Scarborough

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

A lot has happened in Scarborough over the last 12 months, the board of education welcomed three new members, the process to update the town’s comprehensive plan kicked off, the town explored starting a curbside compost collection program and Scarborough Downs was set to be sold to a group of local business men.

Those stories didn’t make the Leader’s list of the top 10 stories of 2017. Here is what did, in no particular order:

1.) School budget passes on third try

After failed referendum votes in June and July, Scarborough voters passed a school budget Tuesday, Sept. 8, a week after the 2017-2018 school year began.

Of the 4,209 ballots that were counted, 53 percent, or 2,223 supported the $47.1 million school operating budget, $42.49 million of which will be funded through tax dollars.

After a decade of waiting and hoping, first responders will soon have a new home after voters agreed to bond $19.5 million to build a new public safety building next to town hall. The building would have access via a new road from both Sawyer Road and Durant Drive. (Courtesy image) After a decade of waiting and hoping, first responders will soon have a new home after voters agreed to bond $19.5 million to build a new public safety building next to town hall. The building would have access via a new road from both Sawyer Road and Durant Drive. (Courtesy image) “I think we need to invest in our schools. Education is the most important thing we can vote on in Scarborough,” Pat O’Brien said as he exited the polls Sept. 5.

The vote attracted 4,209 voters took place mere days after the final tax rate was set, a figure that ended up being higher than anticipated due to slower than expected growth in town valuation.

Many people voted, especially those casting absentee ballots, thinking the overall tax rate increase would be around 2.9 percent, but after the town received the final valuation of the town, the tax rate is going to be $16.49 per thousand valuation, a .57 cent, or 3.58 percent, increase over fiscal year 2017. This means, the owner of $300,000 home, the average house value in Scarborough, will be looking at a $4,947 tax bill, a $171 increase over fiscal 2017. Heading into the final referendum, the tax rate was expected to be $16.38 per thousand valuation, which would have resulted in lower tax bills. Although it grew by slightly more than $9 million, town leaders expected Scarborough’s town-wide valuation figure – $3.78 billion – to be higher.

The Scarborough High School football team celebrated the program’s first Class A state championship win in November after beating Windham High School 57-0 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. (Michael Kelley photo) The Scarborough High School football team celebrated the program’s first Class A state championship win in November after beating Windham High School 57-0 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. (Michael Kelley photo) This budget swayed some to vote in favor for the first time this summer. Not all voters were pleased with the school budget, including Arthur Simmons, one of the 1,985 who rejected the budget.

Simmons voted against the budget for the third time this summer, seeing no other choice.

“I got to vote no,” he said. “They are going to tax me out of town.”

“Where does it end,” Simmons added about the tax increases. “It’s easy to spend other people’s money. I understand they want to do everything for the schools and the kids, but it has to stop.”

The overall $47.1 million budget that was ultimately passed marked a $1.27 million, a 2.77 percent increase over the 2016-2017.

Update: Town Council Finance Committee Chairman Peter Hayes said the town councilors and school board members will take a different approach in getting public feedback about the town and school spending. Four “listening sessions” will be held in January and February for residents to share their thoughts on the budget.

“The intent is to hear what our community has to say and factor that into our budget process,” Hayes said at the Dec. 20 council meeting.

Instead of a budget forum in the spring, Hayes said school and town officials will “have a traveling roadshow” of budget presentations at seven sites throughout town.

2.) Residential project OK’d for Haigis Parkway

Gateway Square, a 32-plus acre piece of property on the corner of Haigis Parkway and Payne Road – envisioned to be an office park to complement the Gateway Shoppes across the street – sat empty for years as the property owner searched for the right project.

Now, nearly 10 years after the Gateway Shoppes opened – home of Cabela’s, Famous Dave’s Barbecue, Phantom Fireworks and a series of small retailers and restaurants – Gateway Square is set to move forward, albeit in a different form than originally proposed.

On Aug. 7, Devine Capital LLC got the go-ahead needed from the planning board to progress with a 288-unit multifamily housing development at 275 Payne Road.

The plan calls for the construction of 12 buildings, with as many as 24 units in each. Dubbed The Residences at Gateway

Commons, the site is conceived to be a luxury apartment development aimed at lifestyle renters – those who are choosing to rent rather than buy – and will be filled with amenities not found in typical apartment complexes. These amenities will include a dog park, covered parking, recreational field, mail building and a clubhouse that will feature a game room, fitness space, meeting space and an outdoor pool.

The property will be accessed via both Payne Road and Haigis Parkway.

The planning board’s approval came more than seven months after the project was first proposed and five months after it got the contract zone amendment approval from the town council it needed to go on to planning board review.

A contract zone amendment was needed because the project was too large and residential in nature to meet requirements of the zone the property sits in, the Haigis Parkway zone, which allows residential uses as long as 60 percent of a development is dedicated to commercial use. The Residences at Gateway Commons will be a solely residential endeavor.

Update: Planning Director Jay Chace said the Gateway project is now underway. Devine Capital recently got building permits for the clubhouse and two apartment buildings.

3.) Scarborough wins Class A football title

When the Scarborough High School football team ran onto the field at Fitzpatrick Stadium for the Class A championship showdown with Windham in November, it was uncharted territory for the Red Storm.

The team had never appeared in a Class A title game and had won its only state championship 14-12 over Belfast High School in 2002 when Scarborough was a Class B school.

That changed Nov. 18 when the Red Storm cruised to a 57-0 victory over the Windham Eagles thanks to five touchdowns by senior running back Owen Garrard, who last month was named Gatorade Maine Football Player of the Year. Senior quarterback Zoltan Panyi was also critical in the win, passing for a touchdown in the second quarter and running for two in the third quarter.

“My expectations were high, but these kids really exceeded them,” Scarborough head coach Lance Johnson said after the game. “They are such good kids. They work hard.”

Jeremy Sendrowski, who had an interception and two-point conversion in the game, said he and his fellow seniors on the team – Connor Kelly, Drew Nichols, Jaquan Seme, Cody Dudley, Panyi, Purvis, Eric Quirk, Garrard, Ben Hughes, Alex Byer, Anthony Griffin and Reese Laquerquist – knew this was their last chance to earn that coveted Class A Gold Ball.

“We went out 110 percent and took no play off because we knew one play could change the whole game,” Sendrowski said.

Garrard rushed for 1,204 yards and 24 touchdowns and also caught two touchdown passes in the regular season. On defense, he recorded 76 tackles, 10 for loss, two sacks and one interception. A first team All-State running back as a junior, Garrard concluded his high school football career with 2,677 rushing yards and 48 touchdowns.

While Garrard may have scored five touchdowns in the game, his performance was not something he could have done alone.

“We have battled up front all year. They work so hard,” he said after the game of his offensive linemen. “Without them, I couldn’t do anything. I just run the ball.”

Garrard, who has been named a finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, said he and his teammates were confident if they continued what they had done in previous games, they had a good chance to win the game.

“This is the last game for me unfortunately, but I couldn’t have finished with a better group of guys,” he said.

4.) School start time to change

The school start times in Scarborough will be changing, but not as soon as many parents, students and community members had originally thought.

After a lengthy public comment period April 27, the board of education unanimously decided to leave start times alone for the 2017-2018 school year, but make middle school and high school start times later – which would make K-5 start time earlier as a result – for the 2018-2019 school year. Those times will be 9 a.m. start at the middle school, 8:50 a.m. start at the high school and 8 a.m. start time for K-5. On late start Wednesdays, K-5 would start at 9:25 a.m., middle school at 10:25 a.m. and high school at 10:15 a.m.

“This gives (Superintendent Julie Kukenberger) the time to look at the bus situation and athletics. We need to give her that time to make those decisions and find the right balance. For me the times are correct. It is just about the implementation,” said vice chairman Jodi Shea.

Athletics and Activities Director Mike LeGage has indicated a change in start time could delay the time practices and games start and may force the department to change schedules and how fields are used across the town.

Current board chairman Donna Beeley said at the April meeting that delaying the implementation will also give new Community Services Director Todd Souza a chance to see what changes his department’s child care services would have to make to accommodate the new start times.

“Hopefully he will bring some new ideas and new enlightenment. This will give him time to do that,” Beeley said.

To help implement a schedule that takes into account the needs of all sectors of the community, Kukenberger formed a school start time implementation committee made up of students, staff, parents and school board members to look into what needs to be done before the times are implemented. Since taking on the issue in 2015, the board of education has been trying to balance the science and data that suggest school start times should be later for middle and high school students in order for them to get adequate sleep with public sentiment and appetite for such a change.

“We have done all this work for one reason and one reason only. We want to make the best decision for all of our students K-12. Over the last few weeks, it became clear this is a complex issue and there is no clear answer,” Shea said.

There has been a push locally, and nationally to delay the start of school for middle school and high school students. Research and studies suggest high schools and middle schools start too early and don’t give teenagers enough time to sleep over the night and be prepared for an early start time. The National Sleep Center indicates chronic lack of sleep can lead to lack of focus and inability to concentrate, forgetfulness, aggressive or inappropriate behavior, unhealthy eating and contribute to illness, weight gain and other physical and mental health issues. The American Academy of Pediatrics said because of the sleep cycles of students – teenagers especially – middle schools and high schools should not start before 8:30 a.m. The American Sleep Association thinks the start time should be closer to 9 a.m.

Update: A draft bus stop sequence was included in a December frequently asked questions memo Kukenberger wrote for Scarborough community members. More specific bus stop times will be published in March or April. Community Services will be conducting a survey in January to gauge the before and after school care needs due to the start and end times for schools changing. Draft athletic schedules are also being developed.

5.) Libraries offer joint book borrowing

Through an agreement between five area libraries, whether looking for a new non-fiction book at Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth, a murder mystery from Baxter Memorial Library in Gorham, a science fiction book at Scarborough Public Library, a children’s picture book from South Portland Public Library or a young adult novel at Walker Memorial Library in Westbrook, a library patron can get the book they are looking for with one single library card, no matter which community they live in.

The shared borrowing program, which began July 1, is an offshoot from an agreement that Scarborough and South Portland libraries had with Cape Elizabeth during the year Thomas Memorial Library was being renovated between 2015 and 2016.

“Once the renovation was over, we wanted to see if this was something we could continue because it was something that was really popular and people really enjoyed,” said Kyle Neugebauer, director of Thomas Memorial Library.

A shared library card system is something South Portland Public Library Director Kevin Davis has long sought.

“This, I’ll call it a shared card system, is something I have been advocating for many, many years,” he said. “It is something we should be doing. It exists in other states, but doesn’t here in Maine.”

The new agreement between the five communities may also save some money. Davis said because libraries may circulate fewer books through interlibrary loan, meaning the libraries may have to pay less for the courier service, which charges libraries based on how many times it stops at the library each week.

“Patrons have to request a book from a library and someone from that library has to pull it off the shelves, pack it up and send it out through a courier service. Our staff has to process it and the patron has to pick it up,” Scarborough Public Library Circulation Manager Mike Windsor said, explaining the interlibrary loan system. “This cuts out all those steps and now they can go directly to one of those libraries and pick up the materials.”

Windsor said he hopes other libraries will see shared borrowing in this fashion is possible.

Neugebauer and Davis hope Windsor is right.

“There is a lot more consortium borrowing in other states. People who move here ask about it,” Neugebauer said. “It’s a nice model for giving choice and broader access to the patron.”

6.) New leadership in town

Any year is busy for a town manager, but 2017 proved to be a particularly busy year for Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall in terms of hiring as several department heads left, most to pursue other employment opportunities.

Community Services Director Bruce Gullifer retired in early January after more than 30 years with the department. Bill Reichl, the department’s recreation manager, served as interim director until former Wiscasset Parks and Recreation Director Todd Souza was brought on to lead the department.

Souza had been parks and recreation director in Wiscasset since 2003 and oversaw the town’s youth and adult recreational programming, facilities and parks, as well as managing the Wiscasset Community Center, a 30,000-square-foot facility that offers residents from Wiscasset and the surrounding area access to a six-lane pool, fitness center, senior center and gymnasium.

“The programming and quality of staff is outstanding. I want to continue that level of service and bring my experience from here to grow the programming depending on what the residents are looking for. That’s our job – to serve the residents of Scarborough,” Souza said of Scarborough’s community services department.

To help gauge whether Souza and the other finalist were a fit, both took a tour of town and met with town department heads.

“We involved staff as much as possible because both candidates were exceptionally qualified and having the fit be right was important,” Hall said.

“What I heard from staff,” Hall added, “is Todd is really hands-on and involved in special project and whatever else the job takes. Bruce was the same way, so there was this familiarity and comfort with that approach. That was a piece of experience that was valued by staff.”

In March, long-time town planner Dan Bacon left Scarborough to lead the planning land use division of Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers. Bacon arrived in Scarborough in 2004 as the assistant town planner, a position he held until 2007 when he took over the top post from Joseph Ziepniewski. He previously worked as the assistant town planner in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

Although the planning director’s position was advertised and solicited applications from 20 individuals from all across the country – including Colorado, Missouri and Nevada – Hall didn’t have to look very far to find the right individual to replace former director Dan Bacon.

Jay Chace, who had been working as the town’s assistant planner/senior planner since 2007, was officially promoted to replace Bacon. Prior to coming to Scarborough, Chace worked as town planner in Harpswell. Chace’s former position has been filled with the hire of Jamel Torres as assistant town planner.

Chace said he was drawn to municipal planning because it is where “people and places come together.”

“I enjoy working through the challenge of growth, preservation and all that goes along with how a town grows,” Chace said. “Everyone has a different vision of how that should happen. I like to be part of that conversation and help a community find its way.”

In early July, human resource director Jaclyn Mandrake left to take a position as human resource director at Maine Public, formerly known as Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

“They seem to be coming all at once,” Hall said after Mandrake left of top officials leaving the town. “There is no interconnectedness. They are all leaving for different reasons, but the impact of that is certainly noticeable.”

On Sept. 11, Liam Gallagher, former human resource director for the town of York, was hired.

Prior to working in York, Gallagher spent three years with the city of Westbrook and Westbrook School Department, where he oversaw new hire orientations, recruitment efforts, managed benefits packages and administrated the Department of Transportation’s random drug testing program.

“I am very much looking forward to Liam coming aboard,” Hall said. “He will be a central part of the senior staff. He comes to the position with a deep understanding of human resources with his experiences in Westbrook and York. I think he will be able to meet our needs and is the type of person that will fit well into the organization.”

Update: Shortly after Gullifer retired, Town Assessor Matt Sturgis crossed the town line to take the position of Cape Elizabeth Town Manager and assessing work was contracted out for much of 2017, but last week, the town council approved the hiring of David Bouffard as town assessor.

Bouffard, a former member of the Scarborough Planning Board, served as assistant assessor in Scarborough for six years and for the last decade had worked for the Maine Revenue Service.

Hall said he struggled finding a good candidate for the position because assessing is a challenging field that fewer and fewer people are getting into, but feels Bouffard will be a good fit.

“This is welcomed news, to be fully staffed in our assessing department,” Council Chairman Bill Donovan said Dec. 20.

7.) Dispatcher guides woman through delivery

As a Scarborough Public Safety Dispatcher, Mike Mains is used to receiving calls from residents about emergencies happening around town, but one he received July 5, will stick out in his mind for some time.

It started as a normal 12-hour shift but at 7 a.m. a woman from Buxton called – per an arrangement between the two communities Scarborough handles 911 calls for Buxton – saying that her daughter-in-law was in labor and wasn’t going to be able to make it to the hospital before having the baby.

Mains said he received the call with an hour to go in his shift.

“It was the mother of the husband that called – the baby’s grandmother. She stated her daughter-in-law was having her third child and she was full term” Mains said during an overtime shift in early July, adding it was clear that the mother, who lived out of state but was in Buxton staying with family and had gone into labor at 2 a.m., was not going to make it to the hospital in time.

Mains said he stayed on the line with the woman and her family for 15 to 20 minutes asking her a series of questions and guiding her through the labor, which occurred six or seven minutes into the call.

With Mains’ guidance, the woman was able to have a successful delivery.

“The baby came out and I could hear it crying in the background. The grandmother was happy because it was a boy,” said Mains, who earlier that morning, just after 2:30 a.m., fielded a call about a fire that occurred at a Lillian Way home after improperly disposed fireworks ignited a fire.

Mains hung up after a Buxton ambulance arrived on the scene, bringing the mother and baby to get medical care.

Scarborough Lead Dispatcher Joe Thornton said it is not uncommon for dispatchers to receive a call from a pregnant mother, but it is uncommon for the birth to happen before responders arrive.

“With the quick response of emergency responders these days, to get all the way through child birth … is rare,” Thornton said Aug. 2, the day after Mains’ colleagues surprised him with a celebration of the event in which the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch gave Mains a orange stork club coffee mug with an image of a stork and a blue stork pin that Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton has allowed Mains to wear on his work uniform.

While this is the first time he has coached a mother through a birth over the phone, it is not the first time Mains has aided a mother in labor. In 2003 Mains, a part-time emergency responder in Buxton helped transport a mother and child via ambulance to the hospital moments after the woman gave birth to the baby at her home.

8.) Residents OK plans for public safety building

The voters have spoken and after more than a decade of hoping and waiting, Scarborough firefighters, police officers and emergency responders will soon have a new place to call home.

On Nov. 7, voters approved a $19.5 million bond to construct a new public safety building next to town hall.

“I am pleased. We knew this was going to be a tough battle. It’s a lot of money and we recognize that,” Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton said the day after the vote. “To the 3,000 people who voted against it, I’d say, just because it passed doesn’t mean we won’t still make every effort to be as cost efficient as we can.”

Mary Bristol was one of the 3,466, or 53.6 percent of voters who approved building the new public safety building.

“I think it is important for to have adequate space and up to date equipment for the folks that are keeping our community safe.”

Dana Ricker, one of the 3,000, or 46.3 percent of voters who rejected the bond request, said he needed more information before he can fully support the project.

“I’d like to have more information about it, more detail, more expense information. Especially in these tight budget times we have now, I don’t see a need for expanding or building a new building at this point in time,” he said.

Moulton and Scarborough Fire Chief B. Michael Thurlow have said over and over in the past that police, fire and rescue personnel have simply outgrown the current facility at 246 Route 1 as they have taking on more work and hired additional staff to meet the changing industry. The space that is provided is cramped with the break room doubling as a place for staff to eat lunch, store files and conduct intoxication tests.

A number of the offices lack windows and proper ventilation, including Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Deering, who works out of an old holding cell. Storage has spilled into the hallways, fingerprinting is done at the bottom of a stairwell and marine resource samples are stored underneath that stairwell because of a lack of space elsewhere. A number of maintenance project have been delayed in anticipation of a new facility eventually. The chiefs have said it is often difficult to get in and out of the property because of traffic congestion on Route 1. The new building won’t have that same concern because responders will be able to access it from Durant Drive or Sawyer Road.

The total cost of the project sits at $21.5 million, but the town will need to only bond $19.5 million thanks to a pool of money in the public safety building reserve account ($625,000) and proceeds from the sale of the current public safety building (an estimated $1.4 million). With an anticipated maximum interest, the project is estimated to cost $29.4 million over the course of the 30-year bond.

A new public safety building was proposed in fiscal year 2002, but the project was pushed back five years because the high school was in dire need of renovation. The high school renovation was completed in 2005 and two years later, in 2007, Gawron-Turgeon was hired to dust off the old plan and look into the possibility of renovating/ expanding the public safety building and ultimately settled on siting it on land on Commerce Drive

After that site fell through, the Great Recession hit and the need to construct a new Wentworth School (which opened in 2014) presented itself, the public safety building proposal was again put on hold until early 2016 when the building was listed as the top municipal facility need in the town’s Municipal Facilities Plan and an ad hoc building committee was formed to create a new proposal/cost estimates.

Update: A new version of that building committee met in mid-December to start the next phase of the project. Jeff Shaw, principal and president of Context Architecture, who helped draft the preliminary plans, has been retained to finalize those plans.

“We are a citizen committee, so we will be taking a back seat during the preconstruction process. We will monitor everything, but the design professionals will lead that effort along with town staff and police and fire departments,” committee member Kevin Freeman said last week.

9.) New ordinances

From ensuring residents are being good neighbors to fine-tuning the consumer fireworks and horses on the beach ordinances to rewriting the regulations around temporary sign placement, it has been an active year for the town council’s ordinance committee.

In early May, per the ordinance committee’s recommendation, the town council approved the creation of the Good Neighbors Ordinance, a set of regulations aimed at not letting noise and light pollution invade onto neighboring residential properties. The Good Neighbor Ordinance allows “residents to enjoy their homes and property, preserve peace and quiet in our neighborhoods, help maintain property values and prevent disputes among neighbors.”

Several months later, in mid-June, the council approved a change to the consumer fireworks ordinance that would require users to notify the fire department of their intention to use consumer-grade fireworks. Individuals will also have to acknowledge they have read and understand the town’s Respect Your Neighbors Consumer Fireworks Guidelines.

The permit form, which can be revoked by the fire department due to weather conditions, is available at the firehouses, police station and through the town’s website. Individuals will also need to have the permission of the property owner, if they don’t own the property where the fireworks are going to set off, and liability insurance before they can use the fireworks.

In September, after months of debate at the ordinance committee and town council levels, a new sign ordinance was put in place that regulates temporary signs, whether they be to advertise an open house, a church supper or offer support for a political candidate or issue.

The ordinance, which keeps signs out of environmentally sensitive areas, was relaxed after the council’s first reading after some individuals expressed concerns about the ordinance impeding free speech and being overly restrictive.

The changes to the ordinance stem from a 2015 Supreme Court decision that ruled municipalities cannot regulate temporary signs based on their content, but can adopt content neutral regulations for them.

Per the ordinance, temporary signs are allowed in the right of way, but only for up to six weeks. They can, however, be relocated and reposted somewhere else a week later. The ordinance’s original 50-foot setback in the town’s eight high accident intersections – where Route 1 meets Broadturn Road/Pine Point Road, Payne Road, Haigis Parkway, Gorham Road/Black Point Road and Pleasant Hill Road and where Payne Road converges with Haigis Parkway, Gorham Road Gallery Boulevard – was been reduced to a 30-foot setback to align with state requirements.

Following the November election, some residents argued the sign ordinance was confusing and not followed.

Councilor Chris Caiazzo said the ordinance was a “good step” and something that can be changed in the future if something needs to be added or removed.

“There is nothing set in stone. We can try it for an election cycle and if it doesn’t work we can tweak it,” he said.

The council also tweaked the rules for how horses should be handled on the beach, after hearing complaints about how horse droppings is not being picked up from the beach. The council passed a provision in early September that required horse permit holders to outfit their horses with “bun bags” devices to catch feces while horses are allowed to run on the beach from Oct. 1 to May 30. The council backtracked a bit at its Oct. 18 meeting after horse riders complained the requirement would be cost prohibitive and that many horses wouldn’t take to having the device on them. The council decided to delay implementation until next October to give horse owners time to purchase a device and train their horses.

At the Oct. 18 meeting, councilors also adopted a change to the garbage and recycling ordinance. The change, which goes into effect in late April, prohibits residents from decorating the solid waste and recycling containers with stickers or paint. Any cart that is defaced will be replaced at the cost to the resident.

Marking the carts has been a longstanding practice for some residents – town councilors included – to assist with identifying their carts after the solid waste and recycling have been collected.

The issue came to the town’s attention after someone complained that their neighbor put a Trump bumper sticker on the cart, which is town-owned property.

Councilors Shawn Babine and Bill Donovan felt it was a necessary step.

“It’s public property, we have a right to have some expectations around that,” Babine said at the first reading on the subject Sept. 20

“The carts are owned by the town. They go with the property and defacing the carts can be a problem for the next owner,” Donovan said at that meeting.

Councilor Chris Caiazzo said the fact the carts are public property “supersedes anybody’s individual right to put on what they feel like because it is in front of their home,” although at second reading, councilor Katy Foley called the ordinance change “unneccesary.”

“I think this is an overreach,” councilor Peter Hayes said, adding he felt the town should let residents do what they want with the carts so long as when they move they pass on a clean cart to the next homeowner.

Update: New ordinance committee chairman Jean-Marie Caterina said in 2018, the committee will begin meeting at 4:30 p.m. every third Thursday of the month beginning in January. The group had meeting the first Thursday of the month at 4 p.m.

10.) Avenue 2 discussion continues

Preserving beach access has long been a hot topic for residents in Scarborough and this was no different in 2017 as discussion on possibly discontinuing the seaside section of Avenue 2 was fodder for a number of meetings, workshops and executive sessions over the last few months.

The topic first came up in early 2016 when Charles Gendron, who owns a property on King Street that abuts that section of Avenue 2, came to the town with plans to expand his house, something that couldn’t be done without the town discontinuing its rights to the that 50-foot wide section of Avenue 2. Since then the town has retained Bergen Parkinson to look into the legalities of discontinuance and to help find a solution, and agreement, with abutters. The agreement, if ultimately passed, would give Gendron 25 feet and the Gables by the Sea the other 25 feet. In exchange, the town would be granted five-foot easements for public use as a walking path to the beach. The path has been used by the public as access to the beach for years,

Despite proposed improvements to the vegetation along the path and officially and permanently setting that property aside as a beach path, many residents of Pine Point have been vocal about this not being a good deal for the town. The group calls that section of Avenue 2, “a natural park, a simply beautiful and accessible path to the best beach in Maine, enjoyed for a century and a half” that “needs to be protected forever.”

The residents group argue that over the years, the town has already given away other areas of public access, including Avenue 5 and Avenue 6 on the marsh-side of Pine Point, something that violates the town’s 2006 comprehensive plan. Avenue 4, they said, could also be in jeopardy with an abutter there also potentially looking for discontinuance.

Mo Erickson, a resident of Pine Point Road, is angered the process has played out this far and told the council she doesn’t feel they are representing the interests of the general public, but rather the interest of one resident looking to expand his property.

“It’s disgusting. If you vote for this, you should be embarrassed about your lack of support for the Pine Point community. You are out of touch with the people of Pine Point. You aren’t listening. You never have,” she said earlier this month.

The town council was set in mid-December to continue the discontinuance process and set two public hearings for Jan. 3 and Jan. 17 before making a final determination whether to discontinue the 50-foot-wide paper street, but opted rather to get all the parties back together again after getting some last minute changes to the agreement from the Gables By the Sea Condominium Association. The association wanted language in the agreement that stipulated the path could only be used from dawn to dusk and that drugs and alcohol couldn’t be used there, stipulations that are already on the books for other parks, beaches and town property.

Update: Town Manager Tom Hall said the most recent meeting of the town and two abutters went well.

“All parties came in with an open mind,” he said at least week’s council meeting. “We agreed to the issues at hand and left with a resolution to all of that. We’ve redrafted the agreement and they are being circulated.”

He said the council could take the topic up next in February.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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