Cumberland board to discuss CMP substation, new Main Street zoning

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CUMBERLAND — The Planning Board on Tuesday will hold public hearings on a Central Maine Power Co. transmission substation and new zoning on part of Main Street.

CMP is undergoing major site plan review of its proposal to build the Raven Farm Substation at 37 Greely Road. The Planning Board tabled the project on Nov. 16, giving CMP more time to make changes.

Planning Director Carla Nixon said last week that the board gave CMP a list of items to address. She said she was informed that only some of the work would be completed by next week’s meeting, “so they are not anticipating getting approval until January.”

CMP also wants to install transmission lines that would run from Pownal to the substation, but next week’s meeting involves only the substation. Both aspects of the company’s proposal must be reviewed.

CMP’s landscape buffering plan was among items board members thought needed work. A peer review by Rachel Sunnell of Gawron Turgeon Architects noted that while transmission line heights vary from 65 to 125 feet, and the clearance requirement from the equipment to vegetation is between 20 and 25 feet, 85 percent of the low-lying plantings the company proposes will only grow to 6 to 8 feet.

“All the proposed plants are deciduous and will lose their leaves in the winter,” Sunnell wrote. “With the proposed plant buffer, the crossbars of the transmission lines will be quite visible from Greely Road. Although the intent of the buffer is noteworthy, is does not appear to be successful in mitigating the visual impact of the transmission lines and substation.”

The Planning Board also raised questions about whether CMP had reviewed its emergency response plan with the town’s fire chief, how the site’s entrance drive would look, the status of Maine Public Utilities Commission approval of the transmission lines, and other concerns.

CMP’s proposal is part of a $1.4 billion plan to modernize its 40-year-old bulk power system.

Town Center District

The Planning Board will also hold a public hearing on creation of the Town Center District on part of Main Street. The board voted in August to table the matter and postponed sending a recommendation to the Town Council, which must decide whether to implement the new zone.

Zoning on the portion of Main Street between Tuttle Road and Moss Side Cemetery would change from Medium Density Residential, which does not allow commercial or retail uses, to the Town Center District.

The new district would permit homes, personal services, business and professional offices, retail stores of no more than 2,000 square feet, cafes, small markets, health-and-fitness studios and residential-care facilities.

The proposal is contained in the Cumberland Town Center Advisory Committee’s final report to the council, the result of nearly a year’s worth of work.

Nixon said the Planning Board, since tabling the matter, has held workshops with the committee and on its own.

The Dec. 14 meeting will be held at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.