A decision on contract zoning to allow an at-times controversial retirement community proposal was expected when the Scarborough Town Council met on Wednesday night.

The council meeting took place after The Current’s deadline.

Councilors were to listen to a second round of public hearings regarding the proposed 65-acre project on Elmwood Avenue. The proposal includes 118 apartments in the main building, which would be built in the initial phase, and 10 cottages to be built in a second phase. The project would offer assisted-living services and full health care.

The proposed community is partly in a residential zone and partly in a resource protection zone, meaning the town would have to amend the residential zoning to permit development.

“We’re going to vote on the contract,” Scarborough Councilor Michael Wood said. “It’s an exception to the zoning that’s laid out in town.”

If councilors approved the contract zone, the plan would go back to the Scarborough Planning Board for final approval. That could take place in January, said Scarborough Assistant Town Planner Jay Chace.

“There certainly has been a lot of discussions,” Chace said. “Some preliminary concerns have included increased traffic on Maple Avenue and some residents have expressed concerns about a cut-through.”

At the Nov. 19 Town Council meeting, Annemarie Silvius, who lives on Maple Avenue, voiced concern that the proposed development would be larger than nearly any other elder community in southern Maine.

“Like my neighbors around me, I too believe this proposal for 260 units crammed in Green Acres’ backyard is far too large,” she said at the meeting and repeated in a letter to the town. “It is not in keeping in any way with this residential community of, arguably, small, working-class houses.”

At a Planning Board meeting Oct. 1, several other residents raised concerns about the project proposed by Harvest Development, including how high some of the buildings would be and proximity of the cottages to Elmwood Avenue. Another expressed concern was that Second and Third avenues could not support addditional traffic. One person wanted to know whether the development would spur more weekend traffic.

Scarborough Library Director Nancy Crowell, whose parents live in the Woods at Canco, a retirement facility Harvest Development built in Portland off Canco Road, urged town councilors to be sure there would be sufficient parking and that walking trails would be paved and kept smooth for the safety of elderly pedestrians.

“You don’t want to underestimate what you need for parking,” she said.

Councilor Wood mentioned issues that had come up related to siren noise from police, fire and rescue vehicles arriving at the Woods at Canco.

Councilor Ron Ahlquist said he’d like “public transportation to be part of the development.” Ahlquist also urged caution when amending the zoning to allow development. He said that when the council approved zoning changes allowing retail development around Cabela’s outdoor store, it was done too quickly and created traffic congestion.

Owens McCullough of Sebago Technics, an engineering consulting firm, said he expected “a very low volume of traffic” in and out of the property – two trips daily for each resident – because only 25 percent of residents are expected to drive.

Sebago Technics is also working with town staff on traffic calming for the neighborhood. Strategies include preventing access to Sunset Road and First Avenue from the Scarborough Connector and Green Acres Lane.

The development would also include a trail linking Woodspell Road to Elmwood Drive and 33 acres of open space that would be conveyed to the town for conservation.

“Landscaping will be a very important part of the project,” said McCullough.

The town can be pickier in additional requirements because Harvest Development is requesting a contract zone, Wood said.

“Since they are not asking to build in a zone that this is currently zoned for and need special permission, the ball is in our court,” Wood said. “We can request whatever we want to for them to do and they will need to meet that request in order for approval.”

Harvest Development has designed, built and managed 300 retirement complexes in the United States and Canada, McCullough said.


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