WESTBROOK — Idexx Laboratories’ proposed expansion in Westbrook would increase the already heavy traffic in the area by about 250 trips per hour during peak periods and result in the elimination of some nearby wetlands, company representatives told residents during a neighborhood meeting Monday night.

The public meeting, at the Westbrook Community Center, was the first in a series as one of Westbrook’s largest employers seeks to build a $62 million add-on to its existing headquarters. Idexx would need to obtain environmental and traffic impact permits from state and federal agencies, as well as site plan approval from the Westbrook Planning Board.

The expansion ultimately would add up to 600 high-quality jobs in the city, Idexx representatives said. In addition, it would add to existing workers’ quality of life by creating new outdoor amenities on the sprawling Idexx campus, at the south corner of Saco Street and Eisenhower Drive.

Idexx, which produces veterinary diagnostic testing equipment, software and other products, employs about 2,500 in Westbrook and has been growing rapidly in recent years. In its third-quarter earnings report filed in October, the company said it expected to close out the year with just under $2 billion in revenue, compared with $1.78 billion in 2016.

This site plan shows the proposed Idexx expansion in Westbrook. Site plan courtesy of Idexx

ACCOMMODATING TRAFFIC INCREASE

The planned project would add a multilevel, 135,000-square-foot expansion to the company’s existing Synergy Center, where administrative, sales, marketing and other departments are housed. Research, development and manufacturing would continue to be housed in the company’s existing Innovation Center, which is adjacent to the Synergy Center.

The site expansion would include offices, collaborative workspaces, a large conference center, up to 800 additional parking spaces and other improvements such as an outdoor courtyard, green space and other amenities, complementing Idexx’s existing 670,000-square-foot headquarters facility at 1 Idexx Drive. According to the company, the expansion would accommodate an additional 550 to 600 workers.

Idexx owns the land on which the expansion would sit, which is zoned for commercial use. Additional space for four parking lots would be leased from adjacent landowner Central Maine Power Co., Idexx said.

About 30 people attended Monday’s meeting, including neighboring landowners who expressed concerns about traffic and pollution.

Nearby resident Carleton Meserve said traffic in the area already is “horrendous” during the morning and evening rush hours. Meserve said he is concerned about a traffic study that determined the expansion would add up to 250 additional trips on Eisenhower and Spring during those times.

“They’re going to have to get in line, though, with the rest of the traffic,” he said.

Still, Meserve noted that Idexx “has been a really good neighbor” in the community.

Idexx Associate Director of Facilities Dana Fortier said the company has been talking to the city of Westbrook about proposed infrastructure improvements that would help accommodate the traffic increase, such as installing a traffic signal and crosswalk at Spring and Eisenhower.

BUILDING WETLANDS TO COMPENSATE

Local resident John Lutz noted that Maine Medical Center is moving 500 employees to the vacant One Riverfront Plaza in downtown Westbrook, which also will add to the area’s traffic congestion.

Lutz said he is also concerned that the expansion would add to the number of Idexx employees who litter across the street when they go on smoking breaks. Idexx does not allow smoking on its campus, so employees who smoke go across the street and leave their cigarette butts on the ground, he said.

“It’s a health hazard to wildlife that’s in the area, and to people,” Lutz said.

Pete DeWitt, Idexx’s senior manager of employee communications and community relations, said the company would work to address the littering problem by increasing its cleanup efforts at the smoking site and reminding employees not to litter.

“We do want to be good community citizens,” DeWitt said.

Another impact of the headquarters expansion would be the elimination of some nearby wetlands, said Denise Cameron, principal and project manager at the Portland-based engineering firm Woodard & Curran, which is helping Idexx go through the permitting process.

Cameron said the affected area is not considered “high-value wetlands,” and that Idexx would pay a “sizable” compensation fee to fund the creation of new wetlands elsewhere.

HIRING OF NEW WORKERS IN PHASES

If everything goes smoothly, the expansion would be completed in late 2019 or early 2020, company executives said.

“We timed when we knew we would need this space, which will be a couple of years from now,” said Idexx Senior Director of Facilities Kathleen Shafer.

Although the expansion would accommodate hundreds of new employees, that doesn’t mean Idexx plans to hire them all immediately, Fortier said. Workers will be hired based on the growing company’s needs, he said.

“We’re not going to build a new building and then hire 500 people to fill it just because we have a new building,” he said.

The company’s expansion plans aren’t limited to Westbrook, executives said. Among the more than 100 Idexx facilities scattered across the globe, about 25 have undergone some form of expansion over the past year, they said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

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Twitter: @jcraiganderson