Scarborough residents get first look at Pine Point land swap proposal
SCARBOROUGH — Town councilors voted unanimously Wednesday night to postpone a decision on a proposed Pine Point land swap until after a public hearing on July 15.
Wednesday's meeting drew a large crowd of residents from the Pine Point neighborhood, many of whom spoke against the proposal that would swap a portion of Depot Street for a parking strip owned by Lighthouse Motel owners Nick and Peter Truman.
Town Manager Tom Hall said the plan would provide a safe drop-off area, with a turn-around, and public beach access using the land gained by the swap in conjunction with a 3,400-square-foot town-owned parcel abutting the Beach Walk subdivision.
The design calls for the town to give up 18,329 square feet of Depot Street in exchange for the 13,044 square feet of parking strip owned by the Trumans. It would maintain private beach access for motel guests, Hall said, and restrict the Trumans from future construction and limit the height of any fence or vegetation to 4 feet.
Though the meeting was not a public hearing, members of the public were allowed to speak. But the comments got off to a bad start when Chairman Mike Wood at first refused to allow some citizens to speak because they did not raise their hands at the proper time to be recognized, despite instructions on the agenda.
"Mr. Wood, you made me feel like a 2-year-old when I have to raise my hand," Karen Lothrop, of Jones Creek Drive, said.
Interrupting Lothrop's comments, Councilor Shawn Babine advised her that council rules prohibit directly addressing a councilor.
Nearly 20 members of the public opposed the proposal, questioning whether it would actually improve safety, expressing concern about adding to the area's traffic problems, asking for more time to review and revise the plan, speculating it would discourage customers from area businesses and asking for a chance to present the council and town manager with the history of the Pine Point area.
Before public input began, Wood referred to the "feud" that "has been going on for a long time" between some Pine Point area residents and the Trumans.
"I'm convinced we can wait five years, 10 years, and we'll still be where we are right now," he said. "We all want the same thing and it's time we move on it."
Pine Point Residents Association member John Thurlow said the notion of a feud was inaccurate, saying there has been a "long-standing myth that members of our association have some personal vendetta against the Trumans."
But Councilor Judy Roy responded sarcastically, saying, "If there is no feud, I'm sorry – I didn't really hear that in what was just said."
When asked about her comment the next morning, Roy said some of the statements she had heard from the public at the meeting reinforced her belief that there is a feud or long-standing enmity between the parties.
The Trumans and their attorney were present for some of the discussion, but chose not to speak. In a phone interview Thursday morning, Nick Truman said he had been impressed by the council and particularly by Hall's dealings with him and his brother.
"I'd like to applaud the council members for taking the time to hear the public so in the end they can rest assured they've made the right decision," he said. "I thought Tom (Hall) did a great job as far as negotiating with us. He used his common sense and he did get a lot of concessions from us."
In the end, he said, many people will look back at the process and wonder "what all the fuss was about."
Though their decision has been delayed, councilors appeared to support the plan and were not inclined to form a committee to study alternative plans, as requested by at least one member of the public. Councilors declined Thurlow's offer of a workshop, but may choose to meet for a one-hour slide show presentation of the history of Pine Point offered by Thurlow.
During councilor comments, Councilor Richard Sullivan addressed the what he called "rude" behavior of some members of the public – who laughed, jeered and talking during the two-plus hour discussion – saying people must "be respectful."
"Night after night, meeting after meeting, we sit here as a council and listen to people get up and say their piece," Sullivan said. "I expect the same (from the attendees)."
And Councilor Ron Ahlquist said he's heard from many Pine Point area residents who hold a different viewpoint from the one expressed during the meeting, but who are afraid to come forward to speak.
"I hear (their) opinion and it's just as valuable," he said.
Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.