Developers of The Downs in Scarborough say an exemption to a local cap on annual building permits is needed so developers can build the downtown area they promised. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

The town of Scarborough and The Downs are making headway on an agreement allowing 860 mixed-use and multifamily units to be built in a proposed downtown area over 10 years – double what developers are now allowed.

Crossroads Holdings says it needs an exemption to match the pace of commercial growth and deliver on its promise of a successful downtown district. Under Scarborough’s regulations, the developers are allowed to build 43 units per year, or 430 over a decade.

“What we’re asking for is not more of anything, it’s simply access to the permits,” said Rocco Risbara, principal co-owner of Crossroads Holdings, in an interview with The Forecaster. “We’ve actually limited ourselves to less units and we’ve limited ourselves to the unit types being multifamily.”

Risbara said that some of the mixed-use, multi-family buildings are designed to be more than 43 units.

“I cannot get enough permits in one year to build one building,” he said.

The Downs is a planned development featuring housing, commercial and industrial zones, in addition to a downtown area.


Developers requested an exemption to a 90-acre portion on the 524-acre property in October 2021.

“What was brought forward by the applicant initially was extremely weighted in their favor,” said Town Council Chairperson John Cloutier on July 13. “What we passed as an order (in March) was definitely leaning toward the council.”

“(The order) directed myself and council leadership to work with the applicant to see if we can come to a mutually agreeable position,”  Town Manager Tom Hall said. “That’s really what we’ve been doing the last three and a half months.”

In a draft presented to the council, The Downs developers will be allocated 430 units in the first five years.

Developers will be allowed 430 more after two conditions are met: allowances for public access to the new town center have been completed, and the construction of at least 20,000 square feet of ground floor, mixed-use commercial space near the new town center.

The town-drafted exemption also places a number of restrictions on Crossroads Holdings. The Downs would not be allowed more than 300 certificates of occupancy in any rolling 365-day period.


In addition, no more than 258 can be multi-bedroom units, no more than 108 of the 430 units can be three bedrooms, and none can have more than three bedrooms.

The developers would also be required to work with the town on a community center, which residents, developers and councilors have strongly supported. They would also need to reserve a 10- to 25-acre plot that could be used for a new school.

“If you were to grant an exemption,” Jeff Levine, principal of Levine Planning told the council in March. “It seems like there could be some conditions that would be appropriate.”

“If it seems like we’re being very cautious about this, there’s a reason for it,” Councilor Don Hamill said. “This doesn’t speak to all of the development that’s occurring.”

Councilor Ken Johnson echoed that sentiment.

“There’s 485 houses in The Downs right now; they’ve added 27 kids in our schools,” he said, noting that does not account for other developments being built in Scarborough.

Some residents are worried about the pace of growth and expressed distaste for the proposed exemption. In a 2021 town survey, 66% of respondents said they believed multi-family residential development was happening too fast.

Councilors emphasized Wednesday that they are still in the early stages and the draft exemption is not final. They will take up the matter again in September.

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