Thursday, May 23, 2013
By Gillian Graham firstname.lastname@example.org
SCARBOROUGH – It has been 132 days since a town board has considered plans for an assisted living home on Black Point Road, but that hasn't stopped the Friends of Oak Hill from speaking at nearly every town meeting.
Friends of Oak Hill, from left, Joan Jagolinzer, Lisa Ronco and Stephanie Ruel discuss their concerns about the assisted living project proposed for the wooded area behind them.
Signs near the planned site of Wegman Cos.’ project on Black Point Road express a neighbor’s opposition.
Members of the group are trying to draw attention to a proposed development they say will create traffic problems and change the character of their neighborhood. The development has already won preliminary approval and appears on track to receive final approval, according to town officials.
Wegman Cos., based in Rochester, N.Y., plans to build an 81-unit senior housing facility about 300 feet from the Oak Hill intersection of Black Point Road and Route 1, in a wooded area behind an existing Citgo gas station. The 59,000-square-foot building will include a mix of studio and one-bedroom apartments, as well as a 20-bed dementia wing. The inclusion of a dementia wing required a special exception from the Zoning Board of Appeals; that exception was granted March 14.
Before the project can move forward, it must receive permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, a process that is expected to end by mid-August. Lisa Vickers, project manager for the DEP, said Wegman is seeking a minor amendment to an existing site location permit issued in June 2007 for a housing development that was never built. Vickers said the department declined to hold a public hearing on the project as had been requested by neighbors, but Vickers will meet informally today with Friends of Oak Hill about their concerns.
The Planning Board will continue its review of the project Aug. 6.
"Given the level of interest, the board agrees it makes sense to allow a second round of public comment on the matter," said Jay Chace, assistant town planner for Scarborough.
The facility would be located in a zone that is considered a transition between residential and commercial uses and allows senior housing. It would be across Route 1 from a commercial area that includes Hannaford and Walgreens stores and a number of smaller businesses. Project developers indicated during previous Planning Board meetings that the close proximity to amenities is one reason Wegman chose the location.
Calls to Wegman officials seeking comment were not returned.
Neighbors opposed to the project formed Friends of Oak Hill in January and this spring launched a campaign that includes a petition signed by more than 100 residents asking the facility be relocated to another area, such as the Haigis Parkway.
"Our group is certainly not opposed to assisted living. We're opposed to the location they've selected," said Friends of Oak Hill member Lisa Ronco, who owns a home across Black Point Road from the proposed entrance to the facility. She put large wooden signs in her yard stating her opposition to the project.
Ronco said traffic and safety are her main concerns about the development. The road is already congested and the area is unsafe for pedestrians because there are no sidewalks, she said.
A traffic study by Scarborough police showed nearly 80,000 cars traveled on Black Point Road during a 120-hour period in May. A traffic study by Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers of Gray for the project developers estimated the senior housing facility would generate 14 trips in the morning and 18 in the evening. The facility will employ 50 people and about four residents will have vehicles, according to project plans submitted to the Planning Board.
"How much traffic does the town expect the residents in this corridor to absorb?" asked Stephanie Ruel, a member of Friends of Oak Hill, during a recent interview.
As part of the project, Wegman will widen a two-lane section of Black Point Road to extend a lane for cars turning left onto Route 1. Chace said the lane will allow cars turning left and cars traveling straight across Route 1 to stack up closer to the intersection. Wegman also will build a sidewalk along the length of its property.
Joan Jagolinzer, a resident of Cedarbrook, said she is concerned the project will add to existing water problems at her condo complex, which sits downhill from the Wegman site. An increase in water runoff could cause flooding, she said.
In addition to meeting with town and DEP officials, Ronco said, group members will continue to speak out at every public meeting in town, regardless of whether the Wegman proposal is being considered.
Chace said the Planning Board has found through the preliminary review process that the proposal is "on the right track."
"If they can meet (the town's criteria), it will be approved," he said.
Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:
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