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Developer eyes Scarborough for 'green' neighborhood, solar array

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Developer eyes Scarborough for 'green' neighborhood, solar array

SCARBOROUGH — The sun may soon shine brightly on approximately 100 acres of undeveloped area on Running Hill Road.

At least, that's what Scott Beaulieu is hoping for.

Beaulieu, a South Portland resident and owner of Green Living Development Co., is looking to create a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Neighborhood Development of mixed-use buildings, including a large solar panel array, in an undeveloped area on Running Hill Road.

"It's a great location," Beaulieu said. "We've done some sketch work of the area and we're thinking three large mixed-use buildings that would contain residential, retail and businesses."

The LEED Neighborhood Development is a relatively new designation, created in April 2009 to encourage green building in neighborhood designs. The designation requires that all buildings be LEED-certified, water- and energy-efficient, with walkable streets and environmentally conscious construction.

Points are also available for mixed-income buildings, on-site food resources, proximity to public transportation and other considerations.

Beaulieu said the project would work within the strict certification requirements to create a unique and truly green neighborhood.

The plan is still in the preliminary stages, as they have not yet optioned the land, but Beaulieu said he is confident the project will be popular with Scarborough residents.

"It's going to be really exciting. If you've looked over the ordinances in Scarborough, they really push green development," he said. "... Scarborough is going to very supportive, I think."

Two years ago Scarborough rezoned the area near the Anthem headquarters to encourage development closer to the Maine Mall area.

Then, approximately a year and a half ago, the town created performance standards for wind and solar power, which made it clear that those options were available to developers.

"There are standards for ground-mounted arrays," Planning Director Dan Bacon said. "Really, we wanted to make it clear they're permitted."

While solar panels may be permitted, Beaulieu is the first to admit they're expensive. However, he said, the project would likely get a boost from the federal government's push to increase green building development.

"The whole project is going to have to be a partnership between the town, the government and private companies," he said. "Right now is an ideal time to get people working again."

Sometimes developments can make use of Tax Increment Financing to move an expensive project forward if that project meets certain requirements. The Cabela's plaza utilized TIF funds for road construction.

"It's not money the town has," Bacon said. "It's a percentage of the increased value that the town gives back to the developer to help pay for costs that are beneficial to the community."

Bacon said he was unaware of Beaulieu's plans, but said the project would have to be a clear public benefit to utilize TIF funds.

Beaulieu said he anticipates working closely with the Scarborough Economic Development Corp. to help make the project happen. As of Thursday, no one from SEDCO could be reached for comment.

Initially, Green Living Development had investigated the Benjamin Farm property on Pleasant Hill Road as a possible area for development, however ran into issues with the wetlands on the property.

The company then looked into property in Westbrook and ran into similar problems.

But Beaulieu is confident the company has now found a good location for the buildings. He said the goal is to have designs before the Planning Board early next year.

In the meantime, the company is looking for construction and development advisers to help with the project, which is his company's first.

"We want to build something people can appreciate," he said. "In the future everyone will have to do things like this. But for now, it's going to be unique to the area."

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net