Don Ettinger Jr., a principal with the Gorrill Palmer engineering firm, shows plans for a new Cedar Street park and ride lot to neighboring Brunswick residents Nov. 21. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BRUNSWICK — Although they are not necessarily opposed to a park and ride lot being established on a state-owned parcel on Cedar Street, those living near the vacant gravel tract are concerned about what negative impacts the 110-vehicle area may cause in their part of town.

“This is a tremendous project in terms of the quality of our residential neighborhood,” Mary Heath of 10 Cedar St. said Nov. 21 during the first of two public hearings the town is holding on the subject. “It’s going to have a significant impact.”

Having lived on the street for 27 years, she said, “and the volume of automobile and pedestrian traffic has increased significantly. Added to that we’re going to have buses. We’re going to have cars coming and going. And we’re going to have people going down our street with their luggage.”

The paved and striped park and ride lot is to be built on what is now a gravel lot surrounded by three railroad tracks. Courtesy Google Maps

“I just want you to know, from my heart, this is huge; this is enormous,” Heath told Town Engineer Ryan Barnes and Don Ettinger Jr. of Gorrill Palmer, the project’s engineering firm, who facilitated the meeting.

A June 10 letter to town officials from Heath and nine other households from Cedar Street and adjoining Spring Street listed several concerns, including the disrepair of Cedar, heavy and unsafe pedestrian traffic, light pollution, sanitation and policing.

That letter prompted last week’s meeting, where abutters could review project designs and ask questions, Barnes said. A more formal hearing is to be held in the Town Hall Council Chambers from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12.

“Those of us in the neighborhood organization that are advocating for certain things don’t have any objection to the fact of a parking lot, but we’re concerned about how it’s done,” said Julie de Sherbinin, who lives across the lot at 24 Cedar St. “With … things that would not disturb our sense of living in a quiet neighborhood.”

Cedar Street already has a speeding issue, with residents intentionally parking their vehicles on the narrow street to slow motorists down, de Sherbinin said. The road is used as a “thoroughfare to get out of town,” she said.

Although some shrubbery between the lot and the street will be removed to allow for grading and creation of five handicapped spaces, Christopher St. John of 14 Cedar St. said he hoped some would remain, or be restored. “It’s junk shrubbery, but it’s nonetheless a little bit of wild, a little bit of nature” where he and his wife go to look at fireflies, he said.

 

The state looks to create 110 parking spots to the left of the Downeast Energy Propane tank. The tank would remain in place, behind a barrier. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

The Maine Department of Transportation project is being locally administered by the town, so Brunswick can “offer and provide more of a local control to how the design and process goes,” Barnes said.

Preliminary plans are about half complete and subject to change, Ettinger said. The triangle-shaped lot is surrounded to the north by Cedar Street, and by three sets of railroad tracks on the other sides. The area to the east of an unused Downeast Energy propane tank – on a space the company leases from the state – will be developed largely for people taking buses and trains, with that to the west left as- is unless demand dictates more parking spots.

Town Councilor Jane Millett – whose Ward 6 includes Cedar Street – said “we’re suffering from a lack of parking in Brunswick, as most communities that are growing do. When you look around, there’s not a lot of land available. … I think it’ll be a good thing.”

The lot is to be graded, paved and striped next summer, with lighting to be installed that does not spill out into the neighborhood. A new walkway along the perimeter will lead to an extended Cedar Street sidewalk, Ettinger said.

About 1,400 vehicles a day travel Cedar Street, but it has yet to be determined how the lot would impact that, he said.

State and federal monies are to fund 80% of the $790,000 project, with the town to cover the rest.

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