WESTBROOK — Residents who live near the site where a developer is proposing to extend a massive housing development off Spring Street told the Westbrook Planning Board Tuesday night that they are concerned about traffic, the impact on schools and city services, and the appearance of the project.

“This absolutely breaks my heart,” said Peggy Quinlan, a 42-year city resident who lives on a dead-end street beside the proposed expansion.

“In my opinion this is an architectural abortion,” she said.

Cliff Plummer, a resident of Central Street, said he wouldn’t mind single-family homes, but the number of apartments planned would bring too many people to the area.

“They’re going to ruin the city of Westbrook by dumping this number of units,” he said. “It’s devastating.”

Nancy St. Clair of the St. Clair and Associates engineering firm presented the plan by developer Risbara Bros. to extend Blue Spruce Farm from the nearly 200 units currently under construction to nearly 500 units.

The second phase would consist mostly of 12-unit apartment buildings, but also would include 40 condominiums and 13 single-family homes, five of which could be built as duplexes.

Mike Ross of nearby Middle Street said people take care of homes they own, but “apartments, not so much.”

About 40 people, including several from Risbara Bros., attended the meeting, where planning board members also gave feedback about the project, much of it based on what is being built in the first phase.

Although they said they were pleased with the plan to add commercial space for a market or coffee shop in the second phase, they said they’d like to see a variety of colors on the houses and more character in the design.

“It doesn’t feel like a neighborhood to me when I drive by there,” board member Rebecca Dillon said. “It feels like buildings plunked down.”

Because the first phase is an active construction site, the landscaping hasn’t been done yet, St. Clair said, but it’s coming.

“We started Phase 1 nine months ago tomorrow,” developer Rocky Risbara said, noting how much has been done since then. “I don’t envision that that pace can continue.”

All 52 of the single-family home lots have been sold, 50 apartments are occupied and tenants have signed on to live in others that have yet to be built.

St. Clair said there are only 10 school-aged children living in the first phase of the project and 10 more who are younger. She said a study would be conducted to determine how many students would be likely to live in the second phase residences.

Meredith Tardif, a resident of Middle Street, said it’s “silly” to believe the project won’t have a major impact on the already crowded schools.

Enrollment in Westbrook schools had been declining, but started going up again in 2010, with the biggest increase at the elementary level, and that is projected to continue. In 2012, the district shuttered one of its four elementary schools to reduce operating costs during a budget shortfall and avoid making immediate repairs.

Superintendent Marc Gousse said Tuesday there was enough room for students in the remaining three schools at the time, but all three will have to use portable classrooms next year.

The district is considering adding 10 to 12 classrooms to Saccarappa Elementary School and six to Westbrook Middle School.

Gousse, who is leaving for Mount Desert Island Regional School System, said that plan was conceived with the first phase of Blue Spruce Farm in mind, but that the second phase was “not on our radar.”

Depending on the types of homes that are built, he said, the plan may need to be changed before it goes to voters.

Quinlan, who lives on the dead end, offered another suggestion at the meeting Tuesday – add an abstinence clause to the leases.

The Planning Board scheduled a site walk of the project for July 16.

“We are at the beginning of the project,” St. Clair said. “There are going to be a number of reviews.”

 


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