2018-02-09 / Community News

Medical use proposed for former Widow’s Walk

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Scarborough Family Chiropractic would like to construct a new medical building at 20 Black Point Road, the former location of the Widow’s Walk, a 1780s farmhouse that was razed in 2013 after years of being in disrepair. (Michael Kelley photo) Scarborough Family Chiropractic would like to construct a new medical building at 20 Black Point Road, the former location of the Widow’s Walk, a 1780s farmhouse that was razed in 2013 after years of being in disrepair. (Michael Kelley photo) The location of an 18th century farmhouse may soon be developed into the site of a 21st century medical building.

In 2013 the old Widow’s Walk, a home at 20 Black Point Road that dated to the mid- 1780s, was razed after years of neglect. Now, five years later, there is a plan in the works by Black Point Holdings, to develop the now vacant property into a multi-tenant medical use building.

On Jan. 29, the planning board reviewed the latest version of the plan, which calls for the construction of a new 8,776-square-foot building, the bulk of which will be the new home for Scarborough Family Chiropractic, now located at 144 Route 1.

The other half of the building would be leased out to still unnamed tenants. Nancy St. Clair, an engineer with St. Clair Associates in Cumberland, said the applicant is asking for 53 parking spaces, more than would be required per town zoning requirements.

While several board members indicated they wouldn’t support the increased parking request, the main concern of the board was the project’s impact to storm water runoff and traffic congestion at the Oak Hill intersection, concerns echoed by resident of the Oak Hill Condominiums.

Bill Bray, a traffic engineer with Traffic Solutions, said although the development would add 21 vehicle trips during the morning peak time and 31 trips in the evening peak time, he feels the project would have a negligible impact on the vehicle flow through Oak Hill.

“The project poses no measurable impact on Oak Hill and a minimal impact on the Atria driveway,” Bray said.

When coupled with others in the area, this project and the other proposed residential and commercial development around Oak Hill, will increase the amount of traffic moving through the intersection and add an additional 247 trips to the morning peak hour, which already sees more than 3,600 vehicles and 276 to the more than 5,000 evening peak hour vehicles.

These cars would be added to a section of Black Point Road that is already, according to Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) statistics, considered a high crash area. Bray said DOT data from 2014 to 2016, indicate there were 20 accidents on Black Point Road between Route 1 and Thornton Avenue and another nine between there and Eastern Road.

“This section has been a high crash location with a similar number of accidents in every three-year study period as far back as I can remember,” Bray said.

He said although the town has made some improvements to the roadway over the years, more could be done. An additional flashing light beacon, for example, could help alert motorists to bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the roadway to use the Eastern Trail.

Bray said changing the timing of the traffic lights may help relieve congestion in the Oak Hill area and shorten the time motorists have to wait and suggested the town pilot new traffic light synchronization for two weeks and see if there are improvements.

Town Engineer Angela Blanchette said the town is looking into traffic signal improvements at Oak Hill, but simply switching the signal timing is unlikely to be enough.

“It’s not something we take lightly,” she said of Oak Hill traffic congestion. “It is really something we want to do carefully. The last thing we want to do is do something and create issues north and south that bottleneck other areas.”

Planning board member Susan Auglis said Bray’s suggestion may be a “step in the right direction.”

“Well it happened. We have reached critical mass. We all knew it was going to happen. Thank God we have impact fees because it is going to take an enormous amount of money, a lot of patience and a lot of creativity to fix the (traffic) issues of Route 1,” Auglis said.

Jeff Jones, an attorney with Jones and Warren and counsel for the Oak Hill Condominium Association said traffic, storm water and buffering were the biggest issues his clients had with the Black Point Holdings LLC development.

Jones said the buffering that has been proposed by Keith Smith of Terrence J. DeWan & Associates, which would include evergreen and deciduous trees lining the two sides of the property that face the condos, is “inadequate” to block the light and noise pollution from spilling onto his clients’ properties. Jones also called into question the stormwater management plan and the traffic impact, wondering if “this is a good project, but just is in the wrong location.”

Jan DiMauro, president of the Oak Hill Condominium Association, said getting into and out of the condominium property is already very difficult and would only get worse when this, and other developments, are constructed.

For Pam Roy, a fellow condo owner, the issue is with stormwater management, something that has become increasingly worse in recent years. Joy said she can’t say if the increased storm water runoff, and drainage issues as a result, is due to the Atria Scarborough assisted living facility which opened on the corner of Black Point Road and Route 1 in 2015, or the town’s widening of Black Point Road, “but something has happened.” Planning Board Chairman Corey Fellows asked town staff to make sure Avita’s storm water management plan is working as it was intended. Blanchette indicated it is.

Joy is concerned the added impervious surface of the proposed medical building property, will cause water to run down the hill on the back of the property and onto condo land.

St. Clair said she and her team will take those concerns into account as they review their storm water plan again.

Planning board member Robyn Saunders said because the storm water management system is a “fairly complex” model, she would like to see it peer reviewed either by town staff or Woodard and Curran, an engineering firm in Portland.

The storm water and traffic concerns will also be fodder for future planning board debate, Fellows said.

Board member Roger Beeley suggested if designed right, the storm water management plan and facilities at 20 Black Point Road may improve conditions lessening the concerns of the downhill condo owners.

Planning board alternate Rachel Hendrickson said she is “not inclined” to support the applicant’s request for 53 parking spaces and instead suggested removing six spots on the side of the back parking lot, something that would lessen the impervious surface water run off and increase the buffering on that side of the property.

St. Clair said the request for six spaces per thousand square feet was made due to the parking demands for other medical use buildings.

“The intent is to market to medical use and that (amount of parking) is needed,” she said.

Aside from updates on traffic, storm water management and landscape buffering, board members got their first look at a preliminary look of the building. Deirdre Pio, director of interior design with Gawron Turgeon Architects at 29 Black Point Road, said the proposed medial arts building will be in scale with the rest of the neighborhood.

“We want to create something that could work with the doctor’s vision, along with what we thought would be appropriate for the neighborhood, being friendly neighbors ourselves,” Pio said.

Beeley and fellow board member Nick McGee were complimentary of the renderings, but Auglis was not wowed. She said the building was “fine.”

“It’s not unique. It looks just like everything else that’s gone up in Scarborough in the last 10 years,” she said.

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

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