SOUTH PORTLAND — The approval of a new condominium complex on Surfsite Road last month prompted an additional traffic study on the street, which did not find a significant number of speed violators.

The South Portland Planning Board approved a site plan for a 13-unit condominium project at 81 Surfsite Road on May 26. During the meeting, residents and public commenters discussed concerns they had, including environmental impact and possible increase in traffic.

According to a memo to the planning board, L.E. Lydon Construction, Inc. and Charter Properties, the developers, are planning to construct the condominium, at the northwest corner of Surfsite Road, Preble Street, and two paper streets, James and Adams. According to the note, “The site is 1.39-acres and the project involves constructing one building with a 7,275-square-foot footprint and 35-foot height. The new building will be served by an elevator and fire suppression sprinkler system.”

The property neighbors Southern Maine Community College, that is less than a mile away.

When the project’s site plan was approved on May 26, planning board members said the project fell within the city’s ordinances and codes, but public commenters said they had concerns about the project’s impact on the area.

A resident of Preble Street, Cecily Upton, said she felt the new residences would affect traffic.

The South Portland Planning Board approved the site plan for a 13-unit condominium at 81 Surfsite Road. Residents of the area had concerns about the project’s impact on traffic and safety. Courtesy image

This proposal would add significant traffic to Surfsite, which is a street that is already completely under resourced in terms of safety infrastructure and under patrolled in terms of speeding,” she said. “I understand that you’re only considering car traffic, but please be aware that this area is a major thoroughfare for walkers and bikers, children who walk to Small School, children who go to SMCC childcare center, who use that paper street regularly, and those moving between Willard Beach and the public bike path.”

Sarah Fuller-Matsubara, who lives on Surfsite Road, said that she also believed traffic could become an issue when Southern Maine Community College classes begin.

“I’d like more clarity around the traffic,” she said. “You mentioned it wouldn’t be a great impact on our street, but I can tell you that when SMCC is in session, traffic is quite heavy on our road and people are speeding up and down constantly and it’s quite dangerous, so I am curious about how that’s going to impact.”

On June 23, Milan Nevadja, city planner, told the planning board that he spoke with South Portland Police Officer Rocco Navarro, traffic specialist, who then conducted a survey on traffic at Surfsite Road.

“Ultimately,” Nevadja said, “the board found the traffic study sufficient and had approved the project, but the board had requested that I make note of the fact that this will be adding new residences to the area, adding new vehicles that weren’t there before and certainly a new pattern in the land use, and that it may be smart of us to let the police department know, to kind of keep a closer eye on this stretch, notify SMCC and just be a little more due diligent.”  

From May 31 to June 7, the survey recorded the average speed being below the posted limit of 25 mph. There was one day during the study where a vehicle went 41 mph, the highest recorded speed in the seven-day period.

“Certainly, we’re seeing those outliers, but it’s not defining the activity on the street and it doesn’t rise to the level of potentially needing some kind of major intervention to ensure traffic safety there,” Nevadja said.

Board member Kevin Carr said an additional survey conducted in the fall, when college classes are in session, could be beneficial.

“That study was done after the spring semester was over and that large chunk of neighbors weren’t there,” Carr said. “To the extent that that could be repeated in the fall, I think it would be worthwhile. It certainly would be good information for us and for the neighbors.”

Besides traffic concerns, other speakers said they believed the project would impact the city’s ecosystem or environment.

Robert Goldman, a Preble Street resident, said the wooded area is an important part of the neighborhood.

“The Surfsite and Preble Street community forest must remain as it is and as it has been for decades,” Goldman said. “This little forest is a community treasure for the people and animals and birds who live here and for those who are just passing through.”

Regarding tree removal on the site, developers are planning to remove 34 trees, preserve 70 trees and replace 30 trees, Nevadja said. A landscape plan was submitted to the board with plans to augment tree placement.

“The goal there in consultation with staff is to try to create an environment on this property that if you were passing by on the public streets, it would effectively look as wooded as it is or substantially as it is today,” Nevadja said.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: