A plan to add more than 300 housing units at the Blue Spruce Farm subdivision was met with an emotional response from the public Tuesday during a Westbrook Planning Board workshop.

The project, developed by Risbara Bros. Construction of Scarborough, would be a much larger second phase of the subdivision that began last year on the former Clarke Farm, where most of the 189 units of one- and two-bedroom apartments and single-family homes are already constructed.

The developer is under contract to purchase 42 additional acres to the west, a mostly wooded area that would be accessed from Prospect Street stemming from Saco Street, and Blue Spruce Farm Road on the Phase 1 parcel. The 42 acres are multiple parcels owned by Daniel Chick and a firm under the name of the Westbrook Land Co.

A number of residents, most of whom live nearby, fear the impact that such a large project could bring to the area, with most of the concerns focused on schools that are already at capacity and the added traffic to a strained area.

“They’re going to ruin the city. What you’re doing is wrong,” said Westbrook resident Cliff Plummer.

The plans for Phase 1 include 20, 12-unit apartment buildings and a mix of homes and condominium units. Also included are commercial spaces allowing for a store or coffee shop, a gym for residents of the development, a half-court basketball court and a dog park. Risbara is also proposing 40 condominium units and 13 single-family homes.

Nancy St. Clair, of the engineering firm working on the development, presented the sketch plan to the Planning Board Tuesday.

Meredith Tardif, who lives on nearby Middle Street, said the numbers used by Risbara to describe the impact on the Westbrook school system are “misleading.” Projections made by Portland-based Planning Decisions estimate 26-44 school-aged children would come from the first phase, which Risbara said is on par.

Rocco Risbara said Tuesday that there are 10 school-aged children and 10 toddlers currently living in the subdivision.

“All of our elementary schools are at capacity,” Tardif said, urging the city to conduct its own population study.

Risbara said Planning Decisions is working on projections for Phase 2.

“The question about school impact is a legitimate concern, but the facts simply don’t support the myth that this type of housing is going to significantly impact the school,” he said in an email Wednesday.

Another Middle Street resident, Flynn Ross, said that combined with the nearby Westbrook Pointe apartments, which is 179 units, there will be a “tremendous burdon on just one school,” Saccarappa Elementary School.

The Westbrook School Department is planning an expansion project for both Saccarappa and Westbrook Middle School, but may be relooking at the number of classrooms being added at Saccarappa based on the new Risbara plan. The current plan calls for 12 new classrooms.

Roughly 40 people attended the meeting Tuesday night, which was designed to provide comments for the developers.

Risbara said Wednesday that he and his brothers were “insulted” by some of the comments made Tuesday night, including one that referred to the design as an “architectural abortion.” But he also said that they received some constructive feedback, especially from Planning Board members.

But, Risbara said, “I don’t see how providing good quality, basically affordable housing, in a market that needs it, is ruining the city.”

Rents established for the one-bedroom apartments in Phase 1 are $1,150 and $1,400 for the two-bedroom apartments. Nearly all the apartments completed are rented, and almost all of the 52 house lots in Phase 1 have been sold.

Some residents, however, were emotional about the issue. Applause followed many comments that criticized the existing project. Many people also referred to the potential project coming forward at the Twin Falls golf course across Spring Street.

Resident Chris Gale was visably upset while commenting on the project. He said the land is beautiful and full of wildlife.

Risbara said associated traffic improvements needed for the areas surrounding the development, which will be decided by the state, will be paid for by the company.

The Planning Board scheduled a property site walk on Saturday, July 16, at 9 a.m., which is open to the public.

Peggy Quinlin, a Westbrook resident for 42 years, asked if Risbara was considering putting “an abstinence clause” in leases, referring to the impact on schools.

“Please think about what you’re doing,” she said.

Nancy St. Clair from the Risbara development team presented plans Tuesday for phase two of Blue Spruce Farm, which include 308 new housing units. The plans illicited a passionate response from residents.

A sketch plan showing Blue Spruce Farm Phase 2, on the left, along with the existing Phase 1 development that is under way off Spring Street.


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