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Panel urges long-term attention to Cape Elizabeth town center

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Panel urges long-term attention to Cape Elizabeth town center

CAPE ELIZABETH — Three weeks after a meeting that devolved into confusion and infighting, the Town Center Planning Committee reconvened Monday and got down to business, reviewing recommendations from the 1993 town center plan and discussing possibilities for a successor committee.

The panel reviewed the first 17 of 37 recommendations made in the original town center plan to determine whether they would be adopted in the plan update, and whether those adopted would include amendments.

The idea for the new committee, potentially a standing committee, came from a recommendation from the original plan that was never implemented. It suggests the creation of a design theme for the town center that would "govern the selection of distinctive sidewalks and lighting, street tree planting, and signage."

It reads further, "Consideration should be given to the appointment of a committee to organize activities in the town center that promote a sense of community, as well as to coordinate anticipated improvements."

Members of the Town Center Planning Committee, an ad hoc group established in February to update the 1993 plan, said the new committee could guide the implementation of the revised plan and develop programming for the town center zone. It could include a designer, an arborist, and a cross-section of residents who use the town center, they said.

Such a committee would ensure that the town center remains on the radar of the Town Council.

"If there isn't someone thinking about these things (after the plan update is submitted), they're obviously never going to happen," Lee Rutty said.

The town center may be too small, and feature too few buildings, to justify a standing committee going forward, Mary Townsend said. Another ad hoc comittee could be more realistic, she said.

Committee Chairwoman Stephanie Carver said she would work with Town Planner Maureen O'Meara to draft a rewording of the original recommendation and a charge for the potential new committee in advance of the group's Dec. 9 meeting.

With regard to a design theme, Councilor Jamie Wagner said, "I would like to have a visionary design person come in and give us his ideas."

In response to a couple of recommendations that suggest preserving the "historic character" of town center buildings, the committee agreed to review the town center design standards. The standards are cost prohibitive for developers, Skip Murray said. Wagner suggested the committee look at relaxing them.

"Maybe you'd want to have some wiggle room so you're not so hamstrung," Wagner said.

The committee also voted to adopt a recommendation to redesign the Route 77-Shore Road-Scott Dyer Road intersection to make it safer and more accessible for pedestrians. Similar recommendations have been made to the Town Council in past years, including a failed proposal to put a traffic light at the intersection in 2009.

Committee members expressed pessimism over the potential to have the intersection reconfigured, with or without a traffic light, although Murray said, "Sooner or later, something's going to have to be done there."

In other business, the committee voted to request from the Town Council a six-month extension of its deadline to submit an update of the town center plan, from Dec. 31, 2013 to June 30, 2014.

During Monday's public comment, a resident said recent meetings had given the impression the committee could be looking to buy or sell property.

Peter Curry said in response that the committee exists only in an advisory capacity and has no authority to buy or sell land.

"We won't be buying, selling or doing anything with any property," he said.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.