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Brunswick council OKs $55K for Cook's Corner road study

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Brunswick council OKs $55K for Cook's Corner road study

BRUNSWICK — Town Councilors on Monday approved spending up to $55,000 for preliminary designs to extend a road and open up development land in the Cook's Corner area. 

According to interim Town Manager John Eldridge, the council voted to move forward with the design in December, but neglected to authorize funding. 

The design is the first phase in an estimated $1.6 million project to build a new road connecting developments between Gurnet Road and Tibbetts Drive. 

Preliminary designs are being funded by fees paid to the town by so-called big-box stores. 

Councilors have not approved a final construction project, but are expected to review proposed designs later this summer.

The proposed road will run east from the traffic signal at the Regal Cinema on Route 24 (Gurnet Road) to Thomas Point Road, then to Tibbetts Drive, which runs next to the Wal-Mart Supercenter. 

Constructing the thoroughfare will also require rebuilding Thomas Point Road at its new intersection.

Topsham-based developer Jim Howard owns one of the buildings bordering Thomas Point Road and has been working behind the scenes for several years to secure agreements from other property owners to deed land over to the town if councilors approve the project.

So far, one of the issues standing in the way of further development has been traffic congestion, especially for vehicles attempting to make a left turn from Thomas Point onto Bath Road. 

"There's a lot of land sitting right there," Howard said, pointing to unused sections of parking lot near the cinema building and former Atrium Inn and Convention Center, owned by George Schott, as well as space in a largely residential area between Thomas Point Road and Wal-Mart that is owned by R.E. Management.

According to Howard, R.E. Management has agreed to take responsibility for constructing the connecting road between Thomas Point Road and Tibbetts Drive.

Last month, the Planning Board approved a proposal from Schott's company, Just Because LLC, to redevelop the Atruim Hotel property into a Goodwill retail store and possibly several other buildings.

Some neighbors have expressed concern about development the project may bring to the area, Howard admitted.

The road-building project was included in the 2014-2018 capital improvement program approved by councilors earlier this year. 

According to the CIP program, the town expects to recover a little more than $1.4 million of the project cost through anticipated revenues from a tax increment financing district in the area, while the remaining cost will be supported by fees paid to the town by big-box stores. 

There is, however, no TIF district now in place at Cooks Corner, and the town will have to design and implement one if it intends to finance the project, Eldridge said in an interview this week. 

"There's not a district there now and there's not a proposed district in front of the council right now," he said.

Councilors on Monday voted 7-2 for the funding, with Councilors John Perreault and Steve Walker opposed.

During the meeting, Walker questioned whether the council is committing fully to move forward with the entire project.

"Last I remember, we were looking at if this project was even necessary, given what's going on at the (former U.S. Navy) base and ongoing development out there, and changes since the last Cook's Corner Master Plan," Walker said. 

Speaking after the meeting, Perreault said he opposed the project because it amounted to spending citizen's money to support a private development.

"Most developers I know had to put in their own infrastructure," Perreault said. 

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.