SCARBOROUGH — Elizabeth Kenney worries about what her neighborhood could lose, along with the wooded parcel that’s being eyed for rezoning and development.

There’s the relative quiet – the stream of traffic on nearby Route 1 and the Interstate 295 connector is just a soft rushing sound outside her home on Elmwood Avenue – as well as the neighborhood atmosphere for young families and a patch of land that has been left to nature.

“We want to keep it that way. It’s a neighborhood. We all already live here,” Kenney said.

The location of the 6-acre property – bordered by the connector and Route 1, First Street, Elmwood Avenue and Green-acres Lane – makes it a buffer between the neighborhood and highway traffic. The location also makes it attractive for a medical practice that wants to build a facility on the site.

Neighbors are organizing against a proposal to remove the property from their residential zone and make it part of the business/office/research district on the opposite side of Route 1, which was designed to draw biomedical and bioscience establishments and includes Maine Medical Center’s campus.

The proposal is expected to go before the Town Council on Dec. 1.

Residents ultimately want to prevent the state Department of Transportation from selling the property. They have contacted local lawmakers and want to determine whether the department followed proper procedures, said one resident, Chris Caiazzo. If the sale goes through, residents want to make sure their comments are considered by town officials.

“We’re honestly looking at pursuing all kinds of options,” Caiazzo said.

Maine Eye Center went public as the potential buyer last week. The practice wants to move from its current home in Portland and build a two-story, 40,000-square-foot facility on the site, saying it looked for two years before finding the right location.

The project is expected to require $6 million to $9 million in investment, said Harvey Rosenfeld, president and executive director of the Scarborough Economic Development Corp., which proposed the zoning change.

While Rosenfeld sees a potential boost to the town’s tax base and a growing cluster of attractive businesses, neighbors worry about noise, light pollution and traffic. The practice has about 100 employees and sees about 300 patients each day.

From Route 1, the neighborhood is largely hidden behind a shopping center, a gas station, a car dealership and an animal hospital. There is an established neighborhood on small streets, and newer subdivisions farther back.

Neighbors say the area is already burdened by cut-through traffic from Route 114, a hospice center and nearby businesses. They question why Maine Eye Center can’t go elsewhere on Route 1, or on the still-vacant Haigis Parkway.

The project has generated suspicion among some residents, who wonder how the potential sale and rezoning proposal came about.

The Department of Transportation has owned the land since it bought it in 1959 for an intersection redesign that never was built, said Mark Latti, a spokesman for the department.

The property was not for sale until a real estate agent contacted the Department of Transportation, which then determined the land was surplus, he said.

The broker, Chris Paszyc of CBRE/The Boulos Co., said Maine Eye Center got involved only after the property was listed for sale. He said the listing generated quite a bit of interest, even after the property went under contract.

“(There are) many different ideas about what the property could potentially be,” he said. “I can’t see it being very many things other than a medical use or what it’s currently zoned for.”

Rosenfeld said he wanted to be proactive in rezoning the property after the listing broker asked him what could be done with it.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]