On July 13, the Town Council held a workshop on The Downs GMO Exemption Request. Pictured is an image of what a town center in The Downs could look like. Courtesy image/The Downs

SCARBOROUGH — The Scarborough Town Council and The Downs are making progress in working on an agreement allowing 860 mixed-use and multi-family units to be built in a proposed Town Center area.  

The Downs is a planned development featuring housing, commercial and industrial zones, and a Town Center.  

On July 13, the Town Council held a workshop on The Downs GMO Exemption request.  

“We are here today to talk about the exemption request that was provided to the town by Crossroads Holdings in October of last year,” said Town Council Chair John Cloutier. “We have had a number of public meetings and workshops; it is really an update. Back in March, we took some action to allow Tom (Hall, the town manager) with council leadership to try to work towards amenable language for the exemption and whatever else that might entail with the developers. That work has been ongoing for a number of months now, and I thought it was time to bring it back to the public realm. I think that some good progress has been made.”  

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

During the workshop there was discussion about the specifics of an exemption request that was submitted by The Downs in October 2021 and what the possible exemption could look like.  


“What was brought forward by the applicant initially was extremely weighted in their favor,” said John Cloutier. “What we passed as an order in March was definitely leaning toward the council.”  

The Downs development group, Crossroad Holdings, is asking for an exemption to Scarborough’s Growth Management Ordinance (GMO) so that the Town Center planning can continue, and workforce and affordable housing can continue to be built within the Town Center. Under Scarborough’s housing cap, the developers are allowed to build 43 units per year, or 430 over a decade. According to the current cap, developers say the Downs would have to wait years to secure the number of housing permits to build a modern, mixed-used Town Center.  

In the draft presented to the council, The Downs developers will be allocated 430 units in the first five years, and developers will be allowed 430 more units after two conditions are met. The two conditions are allowance for public access to the new town center after it has been completed and construction of at least 20,000 square feet of the ground floor, mixed-use commercial space near the new town center.  

Developers must also work with the town on a community center. Both the council and residents have strongly supported the proposed community center. In addition to the community center, developers would need to reserve a 10-25-acre plot that could be used for a new school.

The draft also includes many restrictions on Crossroads Holdings. The Downs would not be allowed more than 300 certificates of occupancy in any rolling 365-day period. Additionally, no more than 258 units can be multi-bedroom, no more than 108 of the 430 units can be three-bedrooms, and none can have more than three bedrooms.  

“We have made some really good progress with the state of Maine in terms of how we might be able to use TIF revenues to fund some major, major capital improvements, and that includes a school,” said Cloutier. “We believe if we have a partner and we’ve got verification of this that as long as we are leasing the facility, we could be leasing it for a dollar. We can use TIF revenues that are sheltered from the state funding for formulas to pay for the construction cost of those facilities. That saves 58 cents on the dollar, so it’s a pretty massive benefit to the town and one that’s worth, I think, pursuing in earnest, and I think we have. Now the bad news is that we’re not quite there yet. We have some reasonable language in this document for the school site, it doesn’t lock anything up, but they committed to reserving 25 acres on their property.”  

The workshop was an opportunity to educate the public and Town Council about what was being requested. No vote was made on the exemption. Councilors have clarified that they are still in the early stages, and the draft exemption is not final. 

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