Cumberland seeks public input on fate of town land

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CUMBERLAND — Residents will have the chance to weigh in Oct. 25 on the future of vacant, town-owned land next to the Town Forest.

The community meeting will be held at Greely Middle School, 351 Tuttle Road, from 7-9 p.m. Participant interest surveys – which require the respondent’s name, age range, time in Cumberland and contact information – are available at cumberlandmaine.com and at Town Hall, 290 Tuttle Road.

Although town officials originally planned to get a cross-section of the population by selecting 125 residents 18 and older for the meeting, they have now decided to open the gathering to any citizen who wishes to attend, Town Manager Bill Shane said in an interview Oct. 6.

The town had already received about 75 submissions, and Shane encouraged people to submit their surveys this week.

Depending on the input from the Oct. 25 meeting, a second, more focused gathering could be held later, he said.

“The more voices that get heard … the better off this process will be,” he said. “We will accommodate as many people that want to show up.”

Although small-group sessions are planned for the Oct. 25 forum, the two hours allotted might not provide enough time, Shane said. If there is a consensus to move in a certain direction with the 31-acre property, “the next step would be to get into breakout groups and to start talking about the different elements of the project,” probably at a second meeting, he said.

Several options are on the table: a multi-generational neighborhood, senior housing, affordable housing that is open to anyone, doing nothing, or selling the property. Shane would also like to hear what residents consider affordable housing costs.

“We have to know where people’s comfort level is for affordability,” he said.

The town has also received two proposals for moderate-income, multi-generational neighborhood developments on the property.

Bateman Partners proposes three options, two of which could happen in conjunction with the developer’s ongoing Village Green Master Redevelopment Plan along Drowne Road.

One pending phase of that plan hinges on the town’s public works and school bus facilities being relocated, freeing that space for redevelopment by Bateman. But Bateman now calls for incorporating that phase into this new project.

Two of the options proposed by Bateman would place 90-100 housing units on the town’s 31-acre lot, with a 10,000-square-foot community building and 50-bed assisted care facility on the public works parcel to the west of the Town Forest.

The third would place 82 units, along with both the community building and care facility, on the 31-acre parcel, in case the public works and bus facilities take several years to relocate.

The other proposal to the town, from Developers Collaborative, calls for a blend of senior and family housing, with as many as 100 units composed of one, two or three bedrooms.

A senior assisted-living facility with about 50 apartments would also be built, as well as an approximately 10,000-square-foot multi-generational recreation and community building, constructed in the style of a barn, and available for use by residents of the neighborhood and the greater Cumberland community.

The project would have common green space, pocket parks and community orchards and gardens, along with a sidewalk and trail network integrating with Town Hall, the Town Forest and Drowne Road ball fields, and sidewalks planned for Tuttle Road.

The Town Council could choose a developer Monday, Oct. 23.

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

Cumberland residents on Oct. 25 will discuss what to do with 31 acres of town-owned land bordered by the Val Halla golf course, Town Forest, a line of railroad tracks and Crossing Brook Road.

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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.