4-day event focuses on Scarborough planning concerns

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SCARBOROUGH — During a four-day planning event, residents told town officials they are concerned about traffic, connectivity, recreation, a need for more sidewalks and the environment. 

Residents said they value the town’s unique nature, including the beaches and the marsh. 

Planapalooza, a four-day, trademarked event held Sept. 25-28, was a creation of Tennessee-based Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative. The town hired the group to help update the Comprehensive Plan, at a cost of nearly $133,000.

A draft plan is expected to be made public next March or April and, sometime later in the spring, the final draft should be ready for council recommendations and approval. 

The town first unveiled its roadmap for the Comprehensive Plan during a public meeting May 23. Since then, committees have been meeting and the town held four “Imagine the Future” meetings in August.  

Karen Martin, executive director of the Scarborough Economic Development Corp., said the goal was “to reinvent participation in a Comprehensive Plan to make it more interesting.

“We wanted to make it as user-friendly as we can,” Martin said.

The town has also created a website at www.scarboroughengaged.org. to inform residents and gain greater participation in the process. 

Planapalooza was billed as “an intense, participatory design, and public input process” where the public could work with their neighbors  and a “multidisciplinary consulting team … to prepare a Comprehensive Plan that will protect and enhance Scarborough and set a clear vision for the future.”

The event began with an opening workshop Monday, where about 60 participants broke into 10 groups and did a mapping exercise to identify places people loved the most, places that presented opportunities for change, and places that need the most improvement.

Residents who haven’t participated in the map exercises can complete them at the town’s Comprehensive Plan website, as well as give input on the future they want for the town. 

Martin said many residents valued their role as good stewards of the environment. Others told the town they are “craving” a community center. 

On Tuesday, the event featured technical meetings, coverings such topics as sustainability, the economy and jobs, mobility and health.

During a 4 p.m. meeting, about 20 people, including residents, city officials and planners from TPUDC, gathered around a large conference table in the space above Scarborough Grounds coffee shop to discuss transportation issues. Fire Chief Michael Thurlow raised his concerns about the creation of new neighborhoods with streets that are so narrow that getting a fire truck through could be problematic.

Another resident, a bicyclist, pointed out that adding sidewalks to streets, which may be a good idea, doesn’t make it safer for bicyclists. She thought rumble strips could be more effective. 

Allegra Kirmani, a resident of the Olde Millbrook neighborhood, attended to advocate for walkability and said she wants the town to build more sidewalks. Even though she lives near Oak Hill, in a neighborhood that has about 220 houses, she and other residents cannot safely walk there because there are no sidewalks between her neighborhood and Oak Hill. 

Julie Kukenberger, superintendent of schools, agreed that the town needs more sidewalks, which could also reduce school transportation costs.

Marjorie DeSanctis spoke out in favor of affordable housing and offering density bonuses to builders to get more affordable housing in the town. 

“Many of the people who work here cannot afford to live here,” DeSanctis said.

 Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

Scarborough residents Allegra Kirmani and her son, Gabriel, 10, examine a map of the town during a planning event on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at Scarborough Grounds on Route 1.