SCARBOROUGH – Landscape architect Terry DeWan says 898 people could comfortably fit at high tide on a new section of Scarborough Beach the Sprague Corp. hopes to open to the public.

On Monday, almost one-tenth of that number turned out to say they don’t want it.

About 80 people attended Monday’s Planning Board meeting to protest a plan submitted by Sprague under its subsidiary, Black Point Resource Management, to build a parking lot for 370 vehicles in a 62-acre field it owns off Black Point Road.

A decision in May by Scarborough’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) that allowed the project to proceed – based on the ruling it meets the definition for “outdoor recreational use” allowed in Scarborough’s rural farm district zone – already has triggered an appeal in Cumberland County Superior Court

Natalie Burns, one of the attorneys representing six abutters in the case, reminded the Planning Board that the outdoor recreational use is a special exception added to the zoning ordinance about a year ago to help rural landowners derive additional income from their property.

“The applicant has hired very good professionals who have done a very nice job of design with this,” said Burns. “But it is what it is. You have to ask yourself if that was the intent when this was passed, to displace farming uses for a 370-car parking lot.”

Town Planner Dan Bacon has said that while Sprague’s proposal meets the letter of the law, the change was made with hay rides in mind, in hopes people would not be forced to subdivide large tracts of rural land.

Seth Sprague said he only wants to create more public access to the beach, given that nearby Scarborough Beach State Park, which his company manages for the state, often fills to capacity. The new area, separated from the state park by a thin slip of private property, would be open to the public from May 1 to Oct. 15.

“We see this as a positive merging of our family and our corporation’s goals as well as the town’s desire to find new public access to the water,” said Sprague.

“It will add to our costs to have to defend the zoning board decision, but we’re moving ahead,” said Sprague, in a separate interview, recently. “We’re quite confident that the decision will be upheld in court.”

During his presentation, DeWan pointed out the design modifications, including sound and sight barriers added to appease abutters. He also noted that some 800 feet of the 1,700-foot-long beach would be closed in the spring to protect breeding habitats of an endangered bird, the piping plover.

No action was taken by the Planning Board, which will review Sprague’s proposal at subsequent meetings. According to Bacon, the project also will require input from the Maine Department of Transportation, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Planning Board Chairman Allen Paul told the capacity crowd that the board cannot block the project, given the appeals board ruling making it an allowed use.

“That is not something this board can change,” he said. “Our goal as a planning board as this project moves forward is to make sure it meets all the goals of the site plan ordinance and the shoreland zoning ordinance. Those are the things we can review.”

However, Paul did attempt to reassure the crowd, which muttered and grumbled at times, and applauded each one in a long line of opposition speakers, while one man waved an ear of corn he claimed to have picked from the field where cars may eventually park.

“We as a board fully understand and appreciate the magnitude of the proposal that has been put in front us,” said Paul.

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