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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council voted to discontinue a portion of Pine Street to make way for Bowdoin College’s construction of a 9,000-square-foot athletic facility.
The Dec. 18 vote was 7-1, with Councilor Steven Walker opposed and Councilor John Perrault absent.
The action came after the council held a Nov. 20 public hearing to discuss the discontinuation. Several neighbors at that time aired grievances about the plan. The proposal was also discussed at the Nov. 8 council meeting.
To account for the closure of part of Pine Street, Bowdoin’s proposal includes the college building a new road to connect the remaining open portion of Pine Street to Bath Road.
Per a state statute, the council was not allowed to vote on the proposal until at least 10 business days after the public hearing. Because of Thanksgiving, Dec. 18 was the earliest meeting eligible for the vote.
One of the most common concerns from neighbors about the discontinuation of Pine Street is the potential for the new street to become a cut-through for drivers trying to avoid traffic lights on Bath Road.
Matthew Orlando, Bowdoin treasurer and senior vice president for finance and administration, told councilors the college would assume any costs related to traffic calming measures deemed necessary for the new street, as well as in “any affected neighborhood or street in that area.”
Town Manager John Eldridge said the Planning Board would be involved in determining what level of traffic calming would be necessary, after receiving the application for the new road and looking at traffic studies conducted by Maine Traffic Resources.
Eldridge added the town would measure traffic in the area beginning at six months after the new road is complete, and would take the results into account when considering further action.
“If those (counts) said we needed to do more, then we would go back and look at what needed to be done with additional traffic calming measures,” Eldridge said.
He added the town expects that Bowdoin will be paying for any additional traffic studies or calming measures deemed necessary.
Councilor Jane Millett said although she would vote for the discontinuance, she is adamant about ensuring it is completed with neighbors in mind.
Walker said he could not back the decision because of its impact on the public. He called it a convenience for the college.
“I enjoy living in Brunswick,” Walker said. “Part of that is because of the presence of Bowdoin, but I do not see a public benefit to discontinuing Pine Street; I see a clear public impact. I don’t think all alternatives have been looked at closely enough.”
Also Monday, the council voted unanimously to form a tax increment finance district in the Cook’s Corner area, which will give the town another source of funding for the Cook’s Corner Connector Road Project.
Councilors also unanimously passed an amendment to the same program, which would allow the town to use TIF money from that district to fund debt service on projects deemed eligible.
An amendment allowing tax increment funds from Brunswick Executive Airport at Brunswick Landing to be used to fund debt service on eligible projects was unanimously passed, too.
Following a presentation by Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, councilors also unanimously approved available TIF proceeds from the Brunswick Landing and Brunswick Executive Airport districts to be allocated for MRRA’s 2018 projects.
The proceeds total just over $559,000.
Edited Dec. 26 to state the Town of Brunswick discontinues the street as a public way, the 10-day rule is a state statute, and traffic studies were conducted by Maine Traffic Resources.