Topsham planning board vice-chair Tom Thompson speaks about the importance of emergency access to Highland Green Tuesday as developers of the retirement community proposed another phase of construction. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

TOPSHAM — Topsham’s planning board approved Highland Green’s proposed assisted living facility and cottages Tuesday, with conditions that include repairing a gravel road that’s drawn the ire of some residents.

The 49,000-square-foot assisted living facility will be built on Audubon Way off Village Drive, and the 48 residential cottages will be constructed around Evergreen Circle.

The project is the latest construction phase planned for the retirement community located off the Route 196 Coastal Connector. The planning board approved a master plan for Highland Green, a 55-plus retirement community,  in 2000.

The assisted living facility to the south of the cottages along Audubon Way will include 48 units. Half of those will offer standard assisted living, and the rest will provide memory care for those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to Chris Wasileski, the director of development for Sea Coast Management Co. He is also the son of Highland Green and Highlands developer John Wasileski.

“This would convert Highland Green into a full-service retirement community, from just the 55-plus community,” Chris Wasileski told The Forecaster in September. “You’re offering more of a continuum care of services.”

The company’s strategy “is to not build cookie-cutter homes,” Wasileski told The Forecaster.

A sticking point for the board was the state of Evergreen Circle that remains gravel, rather than asphalt, and drew a full room of Highland Green residents to the town office for a public hearing.

Joe Feely of Goldfinch Drive, a road only accessible by Evergreen Circle, gave the board a letter arguing that Evergreen Circle has long been in violation of Tospham’s zoning ordinance. He said that Highland Greens has stated plans to complete the road but hasn’t committed to a timeframe.

“The matter of emergency road accesses are a major concern to the Highland Green residents in terms of safety and peace of mind,” said planning board Vice-Chairman Tom Thompson on Tuesday.

With Village Drive the primary access, the town wants to ensure there is secondary access to the retirement community, both for emergency vehicles and residents.

The planning board required Sea Coast to connect the two sections of Evergreen Circle, and make the road at least 22 feet wide by the end of 2020.

The town’s planning staff and engineer will inspect the roads in the construction area with Highland Green’s engineer and staff to determine what immediate upgrades have to happen to provide emergency access. The town’s engineer will determine when those improvements must be made before the town signs off on the plans.

Mountain Road is required to be finished by 2021, connecting Village Drive and Evergreen Circle to Canam Drive which runs past Mt. Ararat Middle School through the former military housing at Topsham Commerce Park. Audubon Way will connect Village Drive to the end of Tedford Road.

 

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