WESTBROOK – The former Blue Spruce Farm on Spring Street, formerly owned by well-known Westbrook resident William Clarke, will be developed into a residential subdivision.

Risbara Bros. Construction of Scarborough, which bought the property, has scheduled a neighborhood meeting for Monday, Feb. 10, when a conceptual plan for the 32.6-acre development, including a mix of single-family, duplex and multifamily units, will be presented.

The late William Clarke was Westbrook city clerk for 38 years, and Wayside Drive was renamed in his honor.

Bill Risbara, one of three brothers who took ownership of their father’s company in 1990, said Tuesday that the property was officially purchased on Wednesday, Jan. 22, but that the company had the property “under contract since it hit the market in July of 2013. During that time we have had several conceptual plans drawn and have met with the city’s planning staff.”

According to the company website, Risbara specializes in the construction of new commercial and residential properties, renovation of existing properties and earthwork and site development.

Lisa Randall, daughter of William and Jacquelyn Clarke and executor of the family’s estate following her parents’ deaths in 1996 and 1998, respectively, said Wednesday that the decision to sell the property was difficult but necessary, given a tough economy and rising taxes.

“It’s a personal matter of what a family decides to do in the long run,” she said. “The expense of things, to try to keep a property in the same hands is difficult.”

However, Randall said that while she knows the property will look different in the years to come, she hopes that the public meeting can inform neighbors of the plan, and how it can be beneficial.

“It will be a definite change from what it has been all of these years, but this meeting will help us see what they do have in mind,” she said. “As much as people don’t like to see change, development, or open space consumed by houses, I feel that it’s an opportunity for other people to have a piece of this property that does have a history.”

Randall added that Risbara has met with the family, where Randall and other family members discussed how to possibly incorporate the history of the property into the development.

According to Randall’s brother, Tom Clarke, who lives nearby on Spring Street, it was “inevitable” that the property would be sold and developed.

“I hate to see it go, but I hope that it’s a nice development,” he said. “I’ll wait to see what they’re proposing to do.”

Clarke, who is 64, said that Risbara expressed a plan to keep the family home, at 333 Spring St., intact during the development, but would most likely tear down the barn, which has fallen into disrepair. He added that the developers talked of building another “barn-shaped” building in its place, possibly a condominium complex that could maintain the “farm look.”

Clarke said the home was built in 1910 by William Bragdon, a former Westbrook mayor, and his father lived at the property for decades, running the dairy farm until the late 1980s.

Risbara said Monday that discussion with the family was helpful in their development ideas, as they saw the importance of the history of the property.

“After some discussion with family members, we learned that the name of the dairy farm was Blue Spruce Farm, so we have proposed this as the subdivision name,” he said.

Risbara added that they would also like to propose the use of “Jacquelyn Way” as a street name within the subdivision “in honor of the family.”

Risbara said he hopes the public forum can give the company insight into possible concerns from neighbors, and to answer any questions they might have.

“The public informational meeting is really a chance for us to let the community know our vision for the property, and at that time we hope to hear thoughts and ideas from the general public as well as any concerns, so that we may try to address them and incorporate them into our plans as we go through the planning and approval process,” he said.

When asked about recent pushback concerning proposed developments in Westbrook, including a failed plan for the former Prides Corner School and the current rezoning process on nearby Stroudwater Street farmland, Risbara said he hopes that his company’s proposal’s details can help lead it toward approval.

“Our proposal is consistent with allowed uses in the zone thus we are not looking for any special zoning or any special consideration from the city, so hopefully that will help us through the approval process,” he said.

City Councilor Mike Sanphy, who is also president of the Westbrook Historical Society, said Wednesday that he is glad Risbara is planning to preserve the family farmhouse, given the history of the home.

“The home is historical itself,” he said. “A couple of mayors lived there and one, William Bragdon, even gave a public speech from the front porch there.”

The immediate area has already been under significant development lately, with Avita of Stroudwater opening the first of a three-phase senior care facility on the adjacent land between Spring and Stroudwater streets.

Mayor Colleen Hilton said Wednesday that she welcomes the development in the city, but thinks that it’s important to have a conversation with the public on new development and its impact on Westbrook schools, which has been a common concern among residents in recent development talks.

“Every time we get a development proposal, we hear from the public that we can’t afford more students in our schools, and that’s simply not true,” she said.

Hilton added that it’s the job of municipal leaders to mitigate any impacts of new development on traffic and other concerns from the public, but reiterated, “development is always good for Westbrook.”

A CLOSER LOOK

A neighborhood meeting about plans for a housing development at Blue Spruce Farm in Westbrook will be held Monday, Feb. 10, at 6:30 p.m., in the new southern Maine campus of Husson University, on 340 County Road.


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