Monday, March 10, 2014
By Dennis Hoey firstname.lastname@example.org
A project that would have expanded public access to one of southern Maine's most popular beaches -- and angered its neighbors -- has been canceled by the developer.
The Sprague Corp. and its affiliate, Black Point Resource Management LLC, notified the town of Scarborough and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday that it will not proceed with its plan for Black Point Park.
The proposal for a 370-lot parking lot and a waterfront park off Black Point Road had generated virtually no public support at town meetings since its introduction 14 months ago.
At every meeting of the Scarborough Zoning Board of Appeals and, more recently, the town Planning Board, residents from nearby Prouts Neck packed the room to oppose the plan, saying it would draw heavy traffic to the quiet residential area and spoil habitat for seabirds, including the endangered piping plover.
Only a handful of people -- a few fishermen and surfers -- spoke in support of Black Point Park.
"The thing that stood out from the get-go is that no one stepped forward in support of the project," said Dr. Richard Levy, a retired Air Force flight surgeon who has lived on nearby Kirkwood Road since 1966.
"We couldn't be happier about the outcome," Levy said. "Now, this gem of a beach can be preserved."
Black Point Park would have been adjacent to Scarborough Beach State Park, which is managed by the Sprague Corp. on behalf of its owner -- the state of Maine.
The state park, known for its fine sandy beach and rugged surf, has limited parking and a narrow entrance on Black Point Road that often backs up traffic into the two-lane road.
Seth Sprague, president of the Sprague Corp., said Wednesday that planning and development costs for Black Point Park had escalated to the point where it wasn't financially prudent to continue.
Sprague would not reveal the costs, saying only, "Our original cost estimates tripled."
"It is a great disappointment to our family to have to make this decision. While creating a new beach park may not have been the highest and best use for our 64-acre beachfront parcel, we felt improving access to Scarborough Beach was a worthy goal and a use of our property that fit well with our mission," Sprague said in a prepared statement.
Sprague said he still feels confident that the project would have received its required local and state permits and overcome any legal challenges, but the process could have dragged on for months or even years.
The Sprague Corp. hired a landscape architect, an attorney, an engineer, a traffic consultant, an architect, a soil scientist and even a botanist to help move the project through the town and state review process.
Black Point Park had approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals and was nearing the end of site plan review by the Planning Board. The Sprague Corp. also had its traffic permit from the state.
"They were closer to the end than the beginning," said Town Planner Dan Bacon.
Og Hunnewell, who owns a home on Prouts Neck, said the developer's decision "came as quite a surprise."
"The Spragues have been spectacular benefactors and stewards of their lands for so long. I have to give them credit for rethinking this situation," Hunnewell said.
Martha Baidarka and her mother, June Gillis, live in a 1941 family homestead on Black Point Road that would have been next to the new park. Baidarka attended every meeting to oppose the project, including the first neighborhood meeting at nearby Camp Ketcha.
"I don't think that NIMBYism (not in my backyard) is a bad thing because it would have been in my backyard," Baidarka said. "My backyard would have become a 370-car parking lot."
Baidarka said she doesn't fault the Spragues for trying to do something with their land, but the park would have permanently altered the character of the neighborhood by adding people and cars. The developer said the beach has space for about 900 people at high tide.
Baidarka said she would not be opposed if the Sprague Corp. built homes on the land.
But Sprague said that, for now, the land behind the beach will continue to be farmed.
"We're not real estate developers. We just thought we had found a use for that property that fit with our mission and with the town's goals," Sprague said.
Sprague said his great-grandfather Phineas W. Sprague came to Maine in the late 1800s, fell in love with the area and started buying farms along the ocean in Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough to protect the land from being overdeveloped.
He said his grandfather Phineas Shaw Sprague created Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth. "He introduced the notion of creating public access to the water as an important thing to pursue," Sprague said.
"I just feel bad that we weren't able to follow through," he said. "I think this park would have been a good thing for Scarborough and for Greater Portland."
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: