Cumberland has big projects in store for 2011

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CUMBERLAND — The town saw several new projects in 2010 that will send ripples into 2011, including a proposed residential development and substation, as well as an overhaul of one of its major roads.

The proposed development of the approximately 40-acre Doane Property in the center of town, as well as adjacent parcels, is a significant endeavor that has been dubbed the Drowne Road revitalization project. Bateman Partners of Portland proposes that about 50 homes – both single family and duplexes – be built in the first phase of that project.

Later phases will include the relocation of the Public Works and school bus facilities that now sit to the northeast of the Doane Property; in their place would be built six single-family and 12 duplex homes, as well as a nearly 43,000-square-foot mixed-use building that would contain 20 residential rental units and 14,300 square feet of office or retail space.

A senior housing/community center for the now-closed 17,600-square-foot Drowne Road School is also part of the plan, as well as the use of a four-acre town-owned parcel to the north of the Doane Property for recreation.

“We’re talking potentially a $24 million to $30 million project,” Town Manager Bill Shane said last week, noting that the complete project would take between two and seven years to finish and result in at least $500,000 in new revenue annually to the town.

“It’s use of probably the last piece of public land in the center of town, near all the facilities,” such as the schools and Town Hall, Shane said.

A Central Maine Power Co. transmission substation could also be a huge fish in Cumberland’s revenue pond, generating between $300,000 and $400,000 annually, Shane said. He said he expects the Raven Farm Substation at 37 Greely Road to go to the Planning Board for a vote next month.

Shane said about 70,000 cubic yards of earth would have to be moved off the 17-acre substation site, while about 120,000 cubic yards of ledge would be blasted. The project would take about 18 months, with the bulk of the impact being in the first six months, he said.

CMP also wants to install transmission lines that would run from Pownal to the substation. The town must review both aspects of the company’s proposal.

The manager praised Planning Director Carla Nixon and the Planning Board for working the past two years to prepare the town for eventual economic recovery.

“We’ve worked very hard on becoming more business-friendly, being very proactive in our ordinances,” he said, mentioning a new process through which small businesses can get approval from his staff instead of undergoing an expensive Planning Board review.

November saw the Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union open its doors at 327 Main St.

“We were the only community over 7,000 that did not have a financial institution in its town,” Shane said.

Seymour’s Bird Refuge and Pet Supply Store opened recently at 204 Gray Road, and Record Lumber is due to open early next year.

Improvements to Foreside Road (Route 88) are about 70 percent done, and Shane said he expects completion by next May or June. The approximately $4 million project received Town Council approval in December 2009, but was challenged by a referendum last March; residents voted 941-915 to uphold the council’s decision to borrow money for the work.

This year saw turnovers in several key positions. Town Clerk Nadeen Daniels left in August after eight years and was replaced by her deputy clerk, Tamara O’Donnell. Bill Landis, who spent nearly 20 years as Cumberland’s community education and recreation director, left in June and was replaced by Brian Bickford.

Alyssa Daniels, Nadeen’s daughter, became Cumberland’s first economic development director and organized the Cumberland Maine Business Association.

Cumberland is pushing hard to develop commercial corridors on Routes 1 and 100, Shane said; it is a means of lifting the tax burden off the shoulders of residents and more onto businesses. He noted, though, that Cumberland will at most be about 5 to 10 percent commercial.

“That’s some of the charm of Cumberland, is that people like the rural character and want us to preserve that rural character,” Shane said. “They didn’t move here because we have a Walmart. They moved here because we didn’t have a Walmart.”

He described Cumberland as a place where people can still be near enough to the city to get the services they need, but to enjoy the qualities that come with living in a smaller town.

“That’s probably been our biggest selling point, as well as a phenomenal school system,” Shane said. “Our schools are what attract families to come to Cumberland and stay, and the community itself is what keeps people here.”

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

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Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union opened in November after Cumberland residents approved a contract zone for this Main Street property in 2009.

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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.