2018-05-18 / Community News

Officials differ on proposed amendments

Crossroads Zoning
Grant McPherson Staff Writer

Planning board members were divided on several issues relating to zoning amendments in the Crossroads Planned Development District, which had been unanimously approved by town council at their April 18 meeting.

Dan Bacon, a planning project manager at Gorrill Palmer and former Scarborough town planner, presented before board members Monday, May 14 with five amendments that developers were requesting in order to move forward with the project.

The list included updating the Crossroads Planned Development District boundaries to more accurately match the property lines, allowing manufacturing, research, light industrial and other non-residential uses on the property, allowing a fueling station within 1,000 feet of the Payne Road/Holmes Road/ Downs Road intersection, updating standards for earthwork, material extraction and construction activities and a final amendment to the landscape and natural buffer standards.

Included in the allowance of other non-residential uses on the north section of the property toward Payne Road, is a request for those new businesses to have relief from commercial design standards, in order to allow potential developers more flexibility in construction.

The planning board would still have final review over any proposed structure however.

Bacon said all of the amendments were proposed to aid the Crossroads Development in either commercial viability or interconnectivity with surrounding properties.

“Our primary amendments we see as critical for the project and commercial development,” Bacon said. “We really want to create an opportunity for a technology, innovation and manufacturing district. There’s a really strong market demand for that manufacturing space and innovation, such as breweries. Our primary goal is to provide new contemporary space for economic development and high tax revenue generators creating activity that leads to housing and vice versa leads to other commercial activity.”

Board members voted unanimously to recommend council approve updating the boundaries of the Crossroads Planned Development District.

Board member Rachel Hendrickson said she wasn’t sure if another gas station on Payne Road was necessary given that there is one station a half mile to the south by the intersection with Interstate 95 and another to north just over a mile away.

“I can see the need for a gas station,” Hendrickson said. “I also see the need for it closer to what would be the town center. The two on Payne Road aren’t that far apart. I also saw something here that said motor vehicle repair and services have an opportunity to relocate off primary corridors. Is that new businesses coming or could that eventually leave us with empty stores on Route 1?”

Bacon said the intention of the amendment was not to steal businesses from Route 1 but provide more options in Scarborough for businesses to relocate.

“The fact of the matter is there’s not a lot of space in town for those types of opportunities to leave Route 1 to find new space that’s more affordable or more appropriate,” Bacon said. “Route 1 is modernizing and calling for different types of uses than auto repair. That’s not fitting anymore in areas like Oak Hill or Dunstan Corner.”

Hendrickson also raised concern for the developer’s request for relief from commercial design standards, which fellow board member Robyn Saunders echoed.

Town Planner Jay Chace said the relief would only apply in the northeastern section closest to Payne Road where the new uses were being proposed.

Bacon said he’s spoken with businesses that want to build more than just a metal building, but don’t want to be restrained by strict New England architectural standards.

“It feels like the tail wagging the dog in this process,” Saunders said. “Where would the planning board have an opportunity to weigh in on the relief from commercial design standards? I understand allowing flexibility for development to attract certain businesses by being able to be nimble with commercial design standards, but I feel like they are crafted for a reason. I’m not sure why we would waive them at this point.

“The gas station also seems superfluous in that it’s not really a high tax revenue area and not a high jobs area. It seems like a low return on investment given the potential environmental issues around spills on a daily basis in this area knowing it’s fairly close to environmentally sensitive and carefully mapped wetlands.”

Board member Roger Beeley gave his approval for all five amendments and Vice Chairman Nicholas McGee recommended all five with the provision to revisit the commercial design standard relief in the future.

Hendrickson and Saunders recommended three of the five amendments, with hesitations around the fueling station and the performance standards and earthwork activities.

Town Council was scheduled to hold public hearings for these amendments at the Wednesday, May 16 meeting.

Staff Writer Grant McPherson can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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