TOPSHAM

The committee charged with developing the Lower Village told the Board of Selectmen on Thursday night that it has developed a preliminary concept, including a roundabout along Maine Street, which is ready to be finalized.

Lower Village Development Committee member Angela Twitchell said selectmen created the committee in April 2012 to consider and develop design alternatives for a Lower Village waterfront park in the area of the “Green Street triangle.”

“When we began our work it became clear after talking to stakeholders and landowners in the area that there were a lot of issues related to the park,” Twitchell said, “and a lot of these issues were the reasons while long talked about, it had never been developed in this area.”

In December 2013, Twitchell said the scope of the committee was expanded, and its prime focus was to “lay out, prepare for the construction of a Lower Village waterfront park, including looking at funding concepts, working with landowners and stakeholders to make sure we include their considerations and perspectives; look at property ownership and related public improvements; and as part of this effort, some of the things we had to consider were parking demand and availability, traffic circulation and flow, pedestrian access and connectivity, sidewalk and trail development, general site amenities and additional commercial development opportunities in the Lower Village.”

The concept of a park in and redevelopment of the Lower Village has been ongoing for more than 20 years, Twitchell said. Several plans addressing this area of town included a park, indicating a long history of support. The committee is not reinventing the wheel, Twitchell said, but rather building on work that has been done over many years, this time working with stakeholders and landowners to bring this plan forward and make it work this time.

The committee has utilized a traffic study and parking inventory completed for the area, the 2013 Neighborhood Revitalization Plan, the 2013 Town Landing Trail Feasibility Report on a trail stretching from the park to Elm Street, and the 2014 walkability audit completed for the Lower Village.

Twitchell said the committee has worked closely with the landowner where the park would go and believes that key landowner supports the concept the committee has brought forward. The committee plans to hold a workshop with selectmen March 4 to discuss the concepts in more detail.

The committee hopes when its redevelopment concept is vetted and refined, it will solve the problems that have prohibited the development of a park.

“One of the things we’re proposing is a roundabout at the entrance to the Red Mill area,” Twitchell said. Turning traffic as you try to exit the Red Mill area is a big problem the committee heard from landowners and stakeholders which the roundabout should address. The traffic patterns along Green Street and Winter Street need to be discussed and solved as well, Twitchell said. This plan includes a crossing from the Red Mill to the old fire station by Green Street. The background work and research has been done leading to a concept for development, and so the committee is ready to work with selectmen to determine where to go from here, she said.

“If nothing happens now, nothing will ever happened,” said Don Russell, chair of the Board of Selectmen. “It’s on a track to do it, and do it right.”

Selectmen Dave Douglass asked if members of the committee will attend a meeting Wednesday about future improvements to the Frank J. Wood Bridge carrying traffic through the Lower Village from and to Brunswick.

John Shattuck, the town’s economic and community development director, said the town wants to coordinate with the Maine Department of Transportation on that project.

The street worked involved would be very disruptive to the Lower Village, so “having a roundabout in place as we go into the bridge construction” could facilitate people being able to access the Lower Village, Shattuck said.

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