SCARBOROUGH — Members of the public told the Scarborough Town Council that they think residential growth is happening too rapidly during the April 21 public hearing on a proposed repeal and replacement of the Growth Management Ordinance.

Adopted in 2001 and most recently amended in 2017, the ordinance states its purpose is to “protect the health, safety and general welfare of residents of Scarborough through placing reasonable and appropriate limitations on residential development in accordance with the 2006 update of the comprehensive plan.”

Councilors voted in favor of replacing and repealing the ordinance on April 7. The final ordinance draft has not yet been approved.

A proposed change would exempt units located in the Crossroads Planned Development District, located in The Downs, from requiring growth permits until Dec. 31.

One purpose for replacing the current ordinance is due to the town’s exhaustion of growth permits allotted for the entirety of 2021 earlier this year, councilors said.

As of April 21, the Town Council received 60 emails from members of the public on the issue, Council Chair Paul Johnson said. Over 20 expressed concern with the pace at which the process is continuing.

Nina McKee, a resident who spoke to the Town Council through Zoom, said she is apprehensive about the town’s growth as related to town services.

“I am hugely concerned about the growth, and I’m hoping you can work hard to correct loopholes and vague statements that enable developers to fill their pockets and ruin our town with traffic, strains on our resources, sanitation, post office services, conservation in beaches and even challenges in Hannaford to keep our shelves stocked,” she said. “It goes on and on.”

Christopher Griffith, resident, said the council should slow down growth in light of the pandemic.

“Many of you up here ran on a platform and won on managing growth and maintaining our town’s character and charm,” he said. “Something’s happened in the last couple of years, and we’ve gone off in a different direction. You don’t work for the developers. You work for us.”

In a growth survey that Councilors Jonathan Anderson and Betsy Gleysteen, separate from the Town Council, asked residents to complete, 81 percent of the respondents, 444 out of 546 people surveyed, said they believe the current pace of residential building is “too fast.”

“When we asked further to better understand what were the areas that they felt should be a priority for the council as we think about how we design policy objectives around growth management, traffic clearly came up as a big issue and a big concern,” Anderson said. “The schools, concerns today about potential overcrowding that need to be considered and addressed.”

Residents surveyed said they believe the council should focus on taxes and town services when updating the ordinance.

Developers or representatives of Scarborough developers presented their own concerns and thoughts about the ordinance.

John Bannon, an attorney representing Crossroads Holdings, one of The Downs’ developers, said the Town Council’s review of the growth management ordinance is subject to mandatory state standards.

“The Maine court and the Maine Legislature have stressed that growth control ordinances are not intended to be permanent or even maintained for indefinite periods,” he said. “They’re meant to be relatively short-term solutions to immediate problems that affect the town but which must be addressed promptly so that the need for the growth limiting ordinance ends.”

Dan Bacon, on behalf of Crossroads Holdings, said the council should exempt one or two multi-family housing units from requiring growth permits.

Despite public comments that expressed that the Town Council is moving too quickly through the Growth Management Ordinance process, Councilors Ken Johnson and Jean-Marie Caterina said the discussion has been on-going for at least 16 months.

Caterina added that “character of the town,” a phrase some residents have used when discussing the ordinance changes or town growth, has racially charged implications that people may be unaware of.

“I do want to say I’m extremely disappointed in the term ‘town character’ or ‘changes to character,'” she said. “As a realtor I know for a fact that those terms have a long history in real estate development and real estate sales that led to steering and redlining in communities.”

Doing nothing is not an option for the town, said Councilor Don Hamill.

“Legally, not possible for us to do either,” he said.

The Town Council had a workshop regarding the ordinance on April 29.

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