Cumberland Route 1 housing proposal elicits traffic concerns

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CUMBERLAND — A proposed contract zone amendment, which would allow 40 extra homes to be added to a U.S. Route 1 housing development, drew concerns about added traffic from nearby residents in a Town Council neighborhood meeting Monday.

Developer David Chase hopes by next year to complete a complex of 45 single-family homes as part of his Foreside Village project. Also underway just to the north is his 96-unit apartment project, housed in eight buildings, that could be ready for occupancy next year.

To the south of those two projects, Chase hopes to build an additional 40 homes, on a site originally intended for commercial development. But in order to do so, the contract zone on the property must be amended – a proposal to be next discussed at Town Hall at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20, in a joint meeting of the Town Council and Planning Board.

The town has already approved 141 housing units, including the apartments, for construction; another 40 homes would bring the total to 181. Since the existing contract zone imposes a 150-unit cap, Chase wants the amendment in order to permit up to 185 units.

The existing houses are accessed off Casco Bay Drive, as the additional homes would be under the plan being proposed. Some residents at Monday’s meeting had concerns about the additional traffic this would place at the intersection with U.S. Route 1, asking that any additional homes be reached via Sky View Drive in order to balance the load.

Sky View Drive would be used for emergency access to the homes only, project engineer Tom Grier said. It is now used for commercial traffic to access the Exactitude offices at 12 Sky View Dr.; access restrictions would remain in place so commercial and residential traffic would not use the same road.

Eighty-five homes would use Casco Bay Drive, Grier said. That number is “quite a lot,” Council Chairman George Turner said, particularly given the fact that True Spring Road, which leads to the condominiums at True Spring Farm, sits directly across U.S. Route 1.

Tom Foley, a True Spring resident, has figured that just using Casco Bay Drive would send nearly 170 vehicles on and off U.S. Route 1 during peak travel times, creating a dangerous traffic safety condition in the 50 mph zone.

“My biggest concern here is, we are jamming an awful lot of activity into this stretch,” said Foley, who added that allowing homes to access Sky View Drive “would take a lot of pressure off Route 1 in this critical section.”

“We think there’s a serious danger of many accidents happening in this area,” Foley added. “There’s a far greater safety risk than allowing people to use Sky View Drive and share the road with a few trucks.”

Mike Brescia, general manager of Exactitude, offered a different opinion. He noted the importance of having a connection to a busy road like U.S. Route 1 sit across from another curb cut, as Casco Bay Drive does from True Spring Road.

“Whereas at (Exactitude’s) driveway, the Friends School curb cut is offset from ours, and that causes … conflicts, even with a center turn lane that eventually would be built there,” Brescia said.

He disagreed that residential use of Sky View Drive would create a safer traffic situation, noting that “tractor trailer trucks take wide turns … into and out of Sky View Drive, they take wide turns into and out of … our loop around our building, and that’s just going to cause conflicts with residential traffic.”

Brescia also said he opposed the contract zone amendment “on the premise that we located our business in this area with the understanding that we were becoming part of what would be a commercial development.”

Adding more homes to an area once planned for commercial uses “goes against what the zoning ordinance is supposed to protect,” Brescia said – compatible uses in the same proximity.

As part of the contract zone amendment, Chase also requests that Lot 9, an undeveloped parcel on the property, be removed from the contract zone envelope, and revert to its underlying Office Commercial South zoning. Doing so would decrease the front setback from U.S. Route 1 from 50 to 25 feet.

A final element of the contract zone amendment would eliminate from the plan a trail that was to be built on a buffer between the development and Interstate 295.

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

Tom Foley, a resident of the True Spring Farm condominium complex, was one of several Cumberland residents to speak at a neighborhood meeting Monday at Town Hall on the proposed amendment of a contract zone governing a U.S. Route 1 housing development.

Cumberland held a neighborhood meeting Monday on proposed amendments to a contract zone governing the Foreside Road development on U.S. Route 1. Among changes developer David Chase seeks is the addition of 40 homes, seen in green at left, as well as removal from the contract zone of Lot 9, right.

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.