The Planning Board this week approved a site plan for Cottages at Sawyer, a 92-unit subdivision on Sawyer Road. The 16-acre property sits in close proximity to Scarborough Downs and Scarborough’s municipal/school campus. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

SCARBOROUGH — The Planning Board this week approved plans for a 92-unit subdivision off Sawyer Street that could prove to be a double-edged sword.

The Cottages at Sawyer would provide much-needed housing for workers as The Downs, a large mixed-use project, is developed. However, town officials say the project could put a strain on local schools.

The project, which will include 58 single-family homes and 17 duplexes, will be completed in several phases. Courtesy / Town of Scarborough

On Feb. 18, the board gave Mark O’Leary of Cottages at Sawyer LLC the go-ahead to build 17 duplexes and 58 single-family homes on a 16-acre piece of wooded property he owns homes at 98 Sawyer Road. Approximately 10 acres will remain open space and be donated to the Scarborough land Trust.

“Your timing is impeccable bringing in this development. If WEX comes in bringing us another 800 to 1,200 employees to The Downs, we are going to have a lot of people looking for homes they can afford, homes that are close by and homes that are well done,” Planning Board Vice Chairman Rachel Hendrickson said at the board’s Jan. 27 meeting.

The project will be completed in several phases, beginning on land closest to Sawyer Road. Town Planner Jay Chace said since no one subdivision can be awarded more than 27 growth management permits, the build-out could take several years. O’Leary said he expects the project to take three years to be completed. The first and second phases would include up to 38 single family homes and 10 duplexes of seniors. The third phase would include the remaining single family homes and seven more duplexes. O’Leary said he intends to have pedestrian access to The Downs property and has given the town an easement to create another access to the property off Gorham Road.

It is unclear how the development, less than a third of a mile from the back of Scarborough Middle School, could impact enrollment for the Scarborough School District, which was 3,010 students as of this month, an increase of 19 students from the beginning of the school year.

“I don’t see it having a big impact on the schools based on the calls I have been receiving,” O’Leary said. The homes, which will range from 1,000 to 1,700 square feet and be priced around $300,000, are targeted, he said, to make sure teachers, municipal employees and public safety professionals working in town can afford to live near their jobs.

“The beauty of this development is it is so close to town center,” he said.

Whether from this development or others, enrollment, Superintendent Sandy Prince said, is expected to keep climbing.

“No doubt that’s going to happen,” Prince said.

Of particular concern, Prince said, is the anticipated growth at the early elementary school level. Projections show there could be 706 students in kindergarten through grade 2 by 2021-22, an increase of 59 students from current enrollment.

“We have had studies done by (enrollment projection specialist) Rebecca Wandall  and (architecture and engineering firm Harriman) that show overcrowding at the K-2 level. That is why the board has moved forward in looking into a consolidated school,” Prince said. “We are in the midst of selecting an architect. The building committee will be interviewing three finalists in the coming weeks.”

Prince hopes to bring a proposal before voters at the November election.

According to a presentation made at a Feb. 12 workshop between the Town Council and School Board, half of the 231 kindergarten students live in homes that were sold within the last five years.

The Cottages at Sawyer would not be the only development in the works that could impact how many students are in the school system or where local employees look for housing.

There are a number of multi-family projects already being planned, proposed or in the pipeline for construction, including a 52-unit senior housing expansion at Piper Shores; more than 180 at The Downs; 84 units at North Village in the Eastern Village property and at least 60 units of affordable and senior housing behind Little Dolphin Drive. New single and two-family projects include six units at Whitten Woods on New Road; nine units at Peaceful Acres on Broadturn Road; 16 units at Holbrook Farm and 11 units at Bayley subdivision on Ross Road.

These developments would add to the 464  single-family homes that were built in town between 2014 and 2019.

In 2001, following a period of rapid single-family home construction in Scarborough that saw 1,101 homes built between 1997 and 2002, the town enacted a growth management ordinance. Those rules are aimed at pacing the rate of construction to limit the impact on town services, particularly the schools. The ordinance sets aside 135 growth permits annually.

The town also sets aside a reserve pool of permits for affordable housing projects, multi-family, mixed-use projects or projects in contract zones.

In 2017 the council set aside 500 reserve pool growth permits, 319 of which have been used or will be used by development projects already in the works.


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