Students with developmental disabilities will have a new home in Scarborough at a facility to be built at the former Pleasant Hill golf course.

The Morrison Development Center, currently based in Portland and with a second location on Route 1 in Scarborough, will combine services to better accommodate its 75 students in a new, 32,000-square-foot building on the corner of Highland Avenue and Chamberlain Road. The final site plan was approved by the Scarborough Planning Board Monday.

“We want to get everybody back together again,” Executive Director Jim DeCamillis said about combining the two locations.

The school has been in existence for 50 years, but the accommodations are insufficient for the needs of the students. According to DeCamillis, the two-story building on Veranda Street in Portland is worn and is not conducive to serving students in wheelchairs.

Students at the Morrison Development Center range in age from 5 to 20 years old and have disabilities including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, neurological disorders and autism. The school offers occupational, speech, developmental and physical therapy. There is also a program for people over 20 years old, which addresses social, emotional and physical development in daily adult life.

DeCamillis said he hopes the new, larger facility will allow the school to expand its programs and serve more students. Currently, the school has a waiting list.

Though DeCamillis said he does not know when the school will be open, he said, “we’re hopeful to put the shovel in the ground next year.”

In total, the project will cost about $5 million, DeCamillis said, and the facility will include a gymnasium and two greenhouses, where students learn how to grow plants.

Ben Walter, of CWS Architects, and realtor John Mitchell, of Mitchell & Associates, presented the plan to the planning board Monday and addressed the board’s previous concerns with lighting by showing images of how bright the school will be during the night and with traffic by moving the driveway from Highland Avenue to Chamberlain Road.

Walter said the current facility in Portland is “not the kind of building someone could take pride in” and is excited to give the students at the Morrison Development Center “the same resources as everybody else has.”

The planning board, too, was supportive of the school coming to Scarborough.

“I think your project is going to be wonderful,” said planning board member Anne Littlefield.

Chairwoman Susan Auglis commended the architects for the improvements made since the last meeting and the quality of the facility as a whole as she welcomed the school to Scarborough.

“It’s a great project you have,” said planning board member Bud Hanson, “and it’s a great service.”

The Morrison Development Center will have students with disabilities including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, neurological disorders and autism.


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