Brunswick ready to upgrade railroad crossings for quiet zone

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BRUNSWICK — The town is one step closer to establishing a second railroad quiet zone after its application was approved by the Federal Rail Administration.

The zone would stretch from the Brunswick-Freeport line to Union Street, and Town Manager John Eldridge told councilors on Oct. 1 the town must build alternative safety measures at the Church Road and Stanwood Street railroad crossings as a condition of approval.

At the same meeting, councilors received a report from the Shelter Task Force. A yet-to-be-scheduled joint workshop on the topic with the Town Council and Planning Board will be held, likely before the end of this month.

Also Monday, councilors set a public hearing for Oct. 15 on amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance regarding marijuana uses.

Quiet zones

Eldridge said the town has “lined up a contractor” to install the roughly 30-foot-long islands at the center of both crossings, and does not expect the work to be costly.

According to town documents, the contractor is “two to three weeks away” from being able to complete it.

The town already has a quiet zone in place at Park Row and Maine Street.

Discussions on implementing a new quiet zone began last November during a workshop with rail officials. The meeting was sparked by complaints from residents in the Bouchard Drive/Stanwood Street neighborhood about noise from the Amtrak Downeaster layover facility.

A quiet zone is a designated area where trains are directed to cease routinely sounding their horns when approaching public crossings, and can reduce noise in neighborhoods where trains frequently pass through at late hours.

After the islands are installed, Eldridge said the town will notify railroads that quiet zones are in place, after which trains will have 21 days to comply.

In that three-week period, the town will put up “no horn” signs, and Eldridge said staff hopes companies will comply with the signage sooner than required.

Councilor Jane Millett thanked Eldridge for his “persistence and perseverance” on the nearly year-long process, to which he replied, “let’s save it for the ribbon-cutting.”

Chairman John Perrault agreed.

“We ain’t there yet,” Perrault said. “When the train goes through there and doesn’t blow its horn we’ll say thank you.”

Shelters

Councilor James Mason introduced the report from the Shelter Task Force, noting it is not the “end of the discussion,” but it is now time for councilors and Planning Board members to weigh in

Councilors extended a moratorium on new homeless shelters in town for six months Sept. 17. The original moratorium was instituted in April after town staff realized a proposed new Tedford shelter would not be allowed under current zoning in any part of town.

The report outlines areas where task force members disagreed.

For instance, the document states the group did not come to a consensus on the maximum number of beds a shelter operator could have. Also, due to disagreements, members did not choose to adopt any licensing or performance requirements.

Instead of stating one bed limit for the entire town, members suggested four residents per dwelling unit, and applying that number to each zoning district to determine density.

The group agreed, however, that a lack of affordable housing is one of the “leading causes” of homelessness, and the Town Council needs to prioritize efforts in the next several years to encourage making affordable housing available.

Resident Lynne Holland said, “no other town in the state of Maine has a multi-use shelter with barracks housing in a residential neighborhood.”

“With all the other challenges we face as a town … can we afford to be the regional shelter for the Mid-Coast?” Holland said. “Because at this point right now we are.”

Councilor Kathy Wilson, however, noted councilors are not “approving or disapproving” the Tedford shelter, noting the organization had been “good neighbors.”

“That’s my concern is we don’t go forward thinking we’re approving the Tedford shelter, hopefully we will,” she said. “But what we’re doing is … we are looking to find zoning for shelters, whatever they may be.”

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

The town of Brunswick’s application for a second quiet zone stretching from the Brunswick-Freeport line to Union Street has been approved by the Federal Rail Administration. The town will now install safety measures to two rail crossings.

The town of Brunswick’s application for a second quiet zone stretching from the Brunswick-Freeport line to Union Street has been approved by the Federal Rail Administration. The town will now install safety measures to two rail crossings.

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