Brunswick neighbors express concern about Pine Street plans

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BRUNSWICK — Residents Monday packed a Town Council public hearing on the possible discontinuation of Pine Street.

Some attendees were also there to provide opinions on how the Amtrak Downeaster layover facility has effected neighbors, following a train noise workshop last week that didn’t include public comment.

In other business, the council discussed a request from the Police Department to use drones, voted to apply for a grant from the Maine Department of Transportation, and set a date for a public hearing on the commercial shellfish license lottery.

Pine Street

Town Manager John Eldridge said Bowdoin College’s proposal to discontinue a portion of Pine Street adjacent to Whittier Field to make way for a new 9,000-square-foot athletic facility includes building a new street that would connect to Bath Road.

During public comments that lasted more than an hour, neighbors expressed concern about heightened traffic around their houses in the face of a discontinuance, as well as people using the new road as a cut through.

Resident Mark Battle cited research that said taking Bowker Street instead of the new road would save drivers a few seconds at certain times of day. He also cited a journal article stating two-thirds of people prefer roads without traffic lights, even if it adds time to their commutes.

“Many of us on Bowker and Pine Street are worried this will bring more traffic,” Mark Battle said. “Certainly from my own experience people take routes to avoid traffic lights.”

Bill Simpson highlighted the intrusion and inconvenience a new road could pose to abutters, implying Bowdoin could seek another option. Simpson pointed to yellow boxes on a map representing homes in the area.

“Those little yellow boxes represent the single most important investment those people made in their life,” Simpson said. “I find it hard to believe where we put that road is the most significant decision in the college’s future.”

Others raised concerns about the transparency of the different phases of the project, Bowdoin’s consideration of the neighbors, and suggested starting over with a new plan.

Because the public comment period ended after 11 p.m., councilors chose to table their discussion until a later date.

In accordance with state law, the council cannot make a decision regarding the discontinuance of Pine Street until 10 business days following the hearing, making the earliest opportunity for a vote at its Dec. 18 meeting.

Train Noise

Residents Charlie Wallace and Rick Pappetti were the only people who commented on the train noise and layover facility.

“I suggest that this council form a special committee made up of the town manager, one town councilor and stakeholders in the community,” Wallace said.

Pappetti advocated for railroad quiet zones, saying Brunswick, Yarmouth, Freeport and Falmouth had all instituted regulations on noise.

Chairwoman Alison Harris agreed with Pappetti, and said she hopes to receive a report regarding how much implementing a quiet zone in Brunswick would cost by Dec. 1.

Councilors agreed to table further discussion of the train noise and put it on the Dec. 4 agenda.

Other Business

The council also voted unanimously to set a public hearing for Dec. 4 to discuss an amendment to the commercial shellfish lottery that would provide additional opportunities for people who had applied to the lottery in years past and not been chosen.

Councilors voted 6-2 to approve the Brunswick Police Department’s use of unmanned aerial drones to monitor railway trespassing and grade crossing safety monitoring. Councilors Sarah Brayman and Stephen Walker were opposed.

Councilors also voted 6-2 to have the town apply for a Business Partnership Initiative Program grant as a source of funding for the Admiral Fitch and Gurnet Road Connector project.

The grant is administered by the Maine Department of Transportation and funds up to a third of municipal projects, up to $1 million. The projected cost of the project, which would build a road between Admiral Fitch and Gurnet Road, is almost $2 million.

Councilors John Perrault and Jane Millett were opposed, with Millett raising concerns about the cost of installing more sidewalks in town.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.