CUMBERLAND — The Planning Board Tuesday night unanimously approved the town’s plan for parking and access at a Foreside Road beach property, more commonly known as the Payson property.
Board member Gerry Boivin was absent. Board member Stephen Moriarty recused himself, because he works for the law firm representing the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust, which the Payson heirs are suing, along with the town, over the town’s use of the property at 179 Foreside Road.
The meeting, which lasted four hours, was originally supposed to have five agenda items. Two were tabled prior to the meeting, and the remaining two had to be rescheduled to a special July 30 meeting because of the length of the board’s discussion about the town now calls the Broad Cove Reserve.
Under the plan presented by the town, a public parking area of roughly 5,600 square feet would provide spots for 33 vehicles, with room for an additional 11 vehicles if needed in the future. Four mobility-challenged parking spots closer to the water would also be available.
Town Manager Bill Shane said he hopes the entrance to the parking area would be paved within the next few weeks. He said the “guiding principle has been grow as we go,” since the town has never owned similar property.
The town purchased its portion of the property from Portland-based developer Bateman Partners. Bateman signed an agreement last June to buy the approximately 100-acre property from Spears Hill LLC, which represents the family of the late Marion Payson.
Voters on Nov. 4, 2014 narrowly approved the town’s $3 million purchase of the parcel for public use and beach access. The town’s purchase includes 2,200 feet of shoreline and a 200-foot pier.
Shortly after starting the meeting, the board went into an executive session with an independently hired lawyer to discuss both the lawsuit and the jurisdiction the board has in the matter. The session lasted half an hour, after which members voted unanimously not to consider whether the proposed use complies with the zoning ordinance, because it was not in the review criteria.
Board Chairman Chris Neagle asked that Carla Nixon, the town planner, not sit with the board members during the hearing, to “avoid the appearance” of her trying to influence the board as a town official.
“The goal here is to have the fewest legal issues,” Neagle said.
Dan Diffen, of Sevee and Maher Engineers, prepared the town’s application. He said the sidewalks in the area, though not flat, are appropriate for what is being proposed. The 33 regular parking spaces will not be marked, he said, although there will be curb stops to delineate them.
The property will be gated, and hours of operation will be from dawn to dusk, with staffing in the summer. There will be no artificial lighting, nor will utility lines be brought onto the site, and an existing bath house will be moved closer to the four mobility-challenged spots.
Diffin said 2,350 square feet of wetlands will be affected, and a bike rack with 18 spots will be placed near the lower parking area.
The board also reviewed a 16-page memo from Dixon, approving findings of fact individually. These included utilization of the site; traffic, circulation and parking; stormwater management and erosion control; water, sewer and fire protections, and more than half a dozen other provisions.
Additionally, the board discussed proposed conditions of approval. Neagle originally proposed seven conditions, ranging from not permitting bicycles and similar vehicles on the reclaimed walking trails, and ensuring a gate at the turnaround area near the water would be locked when the reserve was closed.
However, Neagle also proposed a condition that no development of the project by the town would be done before the lawsuit is “fully resolved.” In order to build the parking lot, trees would have to be cut down, which Scott Anderson, an attorney representing the Payson heirs, said would have a “permanent impact” on the property.
However, this suggestion was rejected by other board members, because the town attorney said it could be years before the lawsuit is fully resolved.
“I don’t want to tie this thing up for years, that’s my concern, quite frankly,” said Board member Teri Maloney-Kelly. “… Trees can be replanted. They won’t be the same, but they’ll still grow.”