Cumberland council nixes stop sign removal, land gift

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously voted against removing a stop sign at the intersection of Hemlock Drive and Prince Street, and opted not to accept a gift of 4 acres of land near Rines Forest.

Two stop signs sit 90 degrees from each other at Hemlock Drive – which becomes Farwell Avenue and ends at Main Street – and at Prince Street, where it stops at the northeast end of Hemlock Drive. The intersection is down the street from the post office at 1 Farwell Ave.

Police Chief Chip Rumsey has called for the Farwell Avenue sign to be removed, noting that a resident of the neighborhood had approached the department about it.

“It’s a very unusual place for a stop sign to be,” Rumsey told the council June 4, pointing out that lines of sight up and down Farwell/Hemlock, a straight through-street, are unobstructed, rendering the stop sign unnecessary.

The Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices also offered no rationale for why the sign should remain, the chief added. Traffic flow there is light, and there have been no records of vehicle crashes at the site in the past five years, he said.

The sign “seems to be unnecessary and maybe more of a confusion to have up there,” Rumsey said.

But sentiments at Monday’s council meeting leaned toward the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Councilor George Turner, responding to a statement by Shane about motorists driving past the sign without stopping, said, “they’re going to blow through it slower than if the stop sign isn’t there. If we had a record of some accidents … I’d feel differently.”

The Prince Street sign remains in place as well. Prince Street is a loop road that has another stop sign closer to Farwell Avenue’s intersection with Main Street; that will stay, too.

The council had tabled the proposal June 4, after a resident said the notice of that meeting stated the stop sign at the intersection of Farwell and Prince was recommended for removal, although it was the sign at Hemlock and Prince being considered.

Land gift

The Town Council also voted not to accept a proposed gift of 4.1 acres of vacant land on Oxford Lane that would have been included as part of the town’s Rines Forest easement.

Paul Benard offered to gift the parcel to the town to settle a dispute with residents of Oxford and Windsor lanes concerned about overburdening of that area from a four-lot subdivision he is developing on Oxford, Town Manager Bill Shane has said.

The homeowners had agreed to settle the matter if a fifth lot remained as open space and provided a pedestrian easement for them into Rines Forest. Other lots have sold for about $160,000, Shane said.

The manager said Tuesday that he did not believe the council vote changes anything, since the agreement was reached prior to Benard making the offer to the town.

Because the town’s Lands and Conservation Commission had yet to discuss the matter, the council on June 4 tabled discussion until Monday’s meeting. The commission recommended the council not accept the land.

Shane recalled that the council had “kind of flipped the coin” on whether to accept it,” and said it doesn’t really appear like it has a lot of value, because town residents would not have access down Windsor Lane or Oxford; both are private roads, and maintained by those associations.

“I don’t see any benefit for us taking this over,” Councilor Mike Edes said.

If left as open space, the lot will be worth less than $40,000, according to the town’s assessor, Shane said in a June 21 council memo.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The Cumberland Town Council on Monday voted against removal of this stop sign at Hemlock Drive. The Prince Street stop sign in the background will also remain.

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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.