The impact of recent development in Scarborough is a driving issue facing five candidates who are vying for three seats on the Town Council.

Incumbent Councilors Jean-Marie Caterina and John Cloutier are seeking re-election, while Jonathan Anderson, Nick McGee and Frayla Tarpinian are running for what would be their first elected office. Councilor Peter Hayes isn’t seeking re-election to the seven-member panel.

Scarborough has experienced significant residential and commercial development in recent years, including several large apartment complexes. At the center of town is the ongoing redevelopment of the 500-acre Scarborough Downs harness-racing facility, a $621 million mixed-use project that features 30 single-family homes, 48 condominiums, 48 apartments, a village center and a light industrial business district.

Residential growth in particular has raised concern about the effect on public services and infrastructure, including schools, roads and public safety, and ultimately, the town budget and property taxes. Some want to toughen the town’s growth management ordinance, which caps development at 135 dwelling units per year but allows for a variety of exceptions.

Anderson, 35, is a marketing manager and a founding member of Scarborough Community Connections, a neutral group that organizes opportunities for civil dialogue on local topics. He’s endorsed by Road to Renewal, a Facebook group that calls for transparency, open-mindedness and accountability among Scarborough officials.

Anderson said his experience in strategic planning and financial management would help the town address increasingly complex challenges. He believes the council should promote a more coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic; work with legislators to access more state funding for schools; identify new revenue streams to fund town services; and optimize tax increment financing and credit enhancement agreements to benefit the town.

“I’m not against growth,” Anderson said. “We need to find a balance. Our growth is putting increasing demand on many services, including education. It’s not necessarily something we can stop.”

Caterina, 65, is a real estate broker who said she’s seeking re-election to a third term because she enjoys public service and has experience that will prove necessary as the town continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. She works to minimize tax increases, maintain quality schools and support older residents, including a $150 increase in the property tax rebate for seniors.

Caterina is chairwoman of the council’s Ordinance Committee, which is updating the town’s Comprehensive Plan and reviewing the growth ordinance. She said growth helps to diversify and stabilize the tax base. She wants to see an analysis of how growth is affecting the town before changing the ordinance.

“The Comp Plan definitely needs to be reviewed,” Caterina said. “About 20,000 cars go by my house on Route 114 every day, but most of them aren’t people from Scarborough. I need to see data on the impact of growth – things like traffic counts and school enrollment and building permits – because I need to see the facts.”

Cloutier, 46, is a business owner who was elected to the council last fall to complete another councilor’s term. He said he wants to continue the work he’s just begun, especially related to establishing a community recreation center, promoting affordable housing for workers and seniors, and planning an integrated downtown. Cloutier also is endorsed by Road to Renewal.

Cloutier said building permits have slowed in recent years. Still, he supports thoughtful, responsive development as a way to keep taxes manageable. He noted that town voters approved the last three school budgets on the first ballot and the current overall budget called for a 1 percent increase.

“Many issues are interrelated,” Cloutier said. “Growth helps temper property tax increases. I want people who work in Scarborough to be able to live here and there should a place for seniors who want to downsize.”

McGee, 40, owns a property management company and has been a Scarborough Planning Board member since 2013, serving as chairman the last two years. McGee is endorsed by Concerned Taxpayers of Scarborough, a Facebook group that cited his “practical” views on growth, school facility needs and fiscal responsibility.

McGee said he wants to find a way to save the Eight Corners, Blue Point and Pleasant Hill primary schools, which have been targeted for consolidation. And he believes the town’s growth ordinance should be updated to ensure a firmer cap and move away from high-density growth toward preservation.

“Because of my role on the Planning Board, I’ve seen a massive growth spurt in the last five years,” McGee said. “You learn how policies get implemented. We’re starting to overdevelop. I want to make sure we don’t build a housing unit on every bit of open land. We want transparency on how many units get built.”

Tarpinian, 39, is deputy district attorney and head of the Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse Unit for Kennebec and Somerset counties. She said she wants to bring her legal and negotiating experience to the council, along with a strong independent voice and the perspective of a parent with young children.

As the town reviews its development goals, it must prepare for various impacts of climate change, especially sea level rise, and ensure there’s enough affordable housing for families and seniors, Tarpinian said. Each building project should be evaluated to determine its benefit to the community and demand for town services, she said.

“Every housing unit doesn’t have the same cost or value to the town,” Tarpinian said. “We need more accessible senior housing that’s integrated into the community and allows older residents to age in place and stay independent. I want a strong and thriving Scarborough that has room for everyone.”

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