The yellow areas depict land the Maine Turnpike Authority hopes to use for its Gorham Connector. Smiling Hill Farm’s property is shown in blue. Contributed / Maine Turnpike Authority

Warren Knight of Smiling Hill Farm is eagerly awaiting a public forum Monday on the proposed Gorham Connector that would cut a swath through the farm that has been in his family for 13 generations.

He’ll be in attendance, he said, and he’ll make it known that he objects to any Maine Turnpike Authority plans for his family’s historic farm property.

“We’re going to fight back,” he told the American Journal this week.

The turnpike authority will have an open house at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 25, at Shaw Gym in Gorham for the public to discuss the connector with Executive Director Peter Mills and other staff members, engineering consultants and municipal officials. A formal presentation is set for 6 p.m. followed by a public comment session.

To ease traffic congestion on routes 22 and 114, which see an average of 22,000 vehicles daily where they overlap, according to the Maine Department of Transportation, the turnpike authority plans to build a 4.8-mile, four-lane toll highway linking the Bernard Rines Bypass roundabout on South Street in Gorham with Exit 45 in South Portland.

Mills said Tuesday a lengthy study determined the alignment of the proposed highway.


The planned route slices through the former Gorham golf course on McLellan Road, across a bridge spanning Brackett Road and the Stroudwater River in Gorham and across another over Saco Street near the Gorham/Scarborough town line. An interchange would be created on County Road/Route 22 at Smiling Hill Farm before continuing overland behind Gannett Drive Business Park in South Portland and then under Running Hill Road to Exit 45.

The Maine Turnpike Authority’s proposed route for the Gorham Connector linking the Gorham Bypass and Exit 45 in South Portland.

The 500-acre Smiling Hill Farm has land in Gorham, Scarborough and Westbrook.

The turnpike authority wants to buy 47.3 acres from the 500-acre Smiling Hill for a portion of the connector’s right of way, according to Mills. Of those 47 acres, 32.5 are “mostly woodland” on the north side of County Road and 14.8 are on the south side that Mills said Knight bought four years ago. Mills said the 14.8 acres was “never part of (the original) Smiling Hill Farm.”

The turnpike authority should have bought the 14.8 acre parcel when it went on the market, but “we didn’t get there in time,” Mills said.

Knight, who operates the farm with his siblings, said the acreage the turnpike authority wants to buy is in Scarborough, and the plan divides the farm, cutting off another 50 acres in addition to the land for the right-of-way strip.

But Mills said there is additional wooded property to be retained by Smiling Hill west of the proposed right of way. That property has primary frontage on Saco Street and some of it is under a power line.


Smiling Hill Farm in January. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald

The edge of the proposed connector right of way is a third of a mile west of Smiling Hill’s ice cream barn, he said, and a quarter mile west of its Hillside Lumber store.

“The road (pike connector) is not prominently visible at these distances,” Mills said.

Besides hayfield and pasture, the farm uses a sugar bush to collect sap for maple syrup production and the forest land to harvest cordwood and lumber, Knight said, adding that the woodland also is a habitat for wildlife important to the farm.

“They are trying to minimize the impact to the farm,” Knight said. “We use all of it.”

Mills told the American Journal, “It’s an emotional issue. We don’t need to settle this with them right away.”

The farm has been in the Knight family for 13 generations beginning in 1720, Knight said. Decades before the American Revolution, the farm was the 1744 burial site of the British royal mast agent Col. Thomas Westbrook, brother-in-law of early Scarborough settler Nathan Knight.


Critics’ first complaint is objection to taking Smiling Hill land by eminent domain, Mills said, but that’s the last thing the turnpike authority wants to do.

The division of the Smiling Hill land has generated a groundswell of opposition. A “Protect Smiling Hill Farm” Facebook page created once the turnpike authority’s plans became known has 2,400 members.

“We’re hopeful to have supporters there,” Knight said about Monday’s meeting.

Hans Hansen, who developed a medical facility and a Cumberland Farms at his South Gorham property up the road from Smiling Hill, plans to show up at Monday’s meeting to support plans for the connector.

Hansen told the American Journal that with “1,000 new homes” recently proposed in the town, “Gorham is growing, they need highways.”

“I’m 100% behind it,” he said.

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