SCARBOROUGH — Town councilors on Wednesday approved the addition of 52 new residences at the Piper Shores retirement community.

With little room for growth on the property, which includes 96 acres of conserved land, the approval amends a contract zone granted in 1997 to include property at 5 Dorado Drive for an independent living development.

The Piper Shores retirement community wants to add 52 residences at 5 Dorado Drive in Scarborough, but needs a contract zone amendment for the project. This is an rendering of a proposed 18-unit apartment complex.     

The plan includes 16 duplexes, 28 apartments with a common clubhouse, and eight single-family homes.

Councilors also unanimously approved a first reading for a request from the Scarborough Land Trust, which seeks $90,000 for marsh conservation at Pine Point.

Acquisition of the property at 5 Dorado Drive, across from the 138-acre Piper Shores facility, was contingent on the amendment.

At the June 19 meeting, residents spoke both for and against the project.

Ann Thunderberg, an 80-year-old resident of Piper Shores who has spoken about the project at several meetings, said she understands the concerns neighbors have, but believes senior housing is desperately needed in the community.

Donald Simino, on the other hand, accused Scarborough of acquiescing to Piper Shores because it is the town’s largest single-lot taxpayer.

“It looks to me like zones can be changed to benefit huge companies and help with their bottom line,” Simino said. “You would think we would be welcome first because some of our families have been here for generations paying taxes. I beg all of you, just say no.”

The vote was 5-1, with Chairman Peter Hayes absent. All councilors initially voted in favor, but Councilor Katey Foley was unwilling to vote yes on the finalized agreement, saying the Town Council must set a precedent to not allow businesses or organizations to push contract zones at their discretion.

Newly elected Councilor John Cloutier said the addition would be a big benefit for the community, even if neighbors are uncomfortable with the development.

“I think there is a lot of opportunity here, and there is a dire need for housing,” Cloutier said. “It also provides lifetime care, which is hard to come by. The plans have been brought forward and are considerate of the neighbors.”

A first reading for the proposed development was held in June 2018 and passed unanimously, with former Councilor Shawn Babine absent. A public hearing on June 5 drew mixed reaction from residents.

Piper Shores, at 15 Piper Road, agreed to buy the 45-acre Dorado Drive property in July 2017 from David and Patricia MacDonald. The agreement included a 24-month deadline to obtain town approval for the zoning changes.

Piper Shores has an assessed value of $84.9 million and an annual property tax bill of more than $1.4 million.

The community now has 350 residents in four areas of care: independent living, assisted living, memory care and nursing, with 190 people on a waiting list for independent living.

Land trust seeks funds

Residents and councilors alike spoke in favor of providing funds to Scarborough Land Trust, with Councilor William Donovan saying marsh conservation is critical and projects like these are important for the future.

Rich Bard, executive director of the trust, said the total cost of the Blue Point Preserve Campaign would be $270,000. The funds would go toward the purchase of property at 236 Pine Point Road and an adjacent parcel near Seavey Landing on Pine Point Road, plus public access improvements including a parking lot and trail, and future maintenance.

If the request is approved at second reading, Bard said no money will be left in the town’s land acquisition fund, with no plans to replenish the fund.

Bard said the Blue Point Preserve Campaign launched last fall, when members of the Blue Point Congregational Church governing board approached the trust about conserving the land adjacent to the church.

Bard said the trust is also asking the community for donations to cover $100,000 in costs. Businesses and individuals have already begun supporting the campaign, although Bard declined to disclose how much has been donated.

If approved at second reading, this would be the trust’s first preserve in the Pine Point area. A date for the final approval has yet to be determined, but councilors said it would most likely be brought back at some point in July.

Bard said the approval must precede the property purchase deadline of July 10.

Since 2004, the land trust has spent just over $3.4 million to acquire 725 acres of land using land bond funds. The new parcel would add to the six public access preserves in town.

Krysteana Scribner can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9094. Follow her on Twitter: @krysteana2016.