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Scarborough, South Portland 'pilot communities' eyed for sustainable growth

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Scarborough, South Portland 'pilot communities' eyed for sustainable growth

SCARBOROUGH — Dunstan Corner and Mill Creek in South Portland are about 10 miles apart, but clearly in the view of Sustain Southern Maine, a regional planning effort seeking to strengthen neighborhoods and communities in Cumberland and York counties.

Last week, South Portland Planning Director Tex Haueser and officials from the Greater Portland Council of Governments sought public input and opinion on the future of the Mill Creek retail area.

And on May 21 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., potential future uses of Dunstan Corner, the Scarborough area where U.S. Route 1, and Payne, Broadturn and Pine Point roads converge, will be discussed at a Town Hall forum.

Scarborough and South Portland are two of 10 municipalities with "pilot communities" under study by Sustain Southern Maine, which involves municipal and GPCOG officials. The studies are funded through a grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The studies are also underway in New Gloucester, the Steep Falls section of Standish, Gray, Windham, Wells, Kittery, Ogunquit and Portland.

In South Portland, the Mill Creek retail and adjacent area bounded by the Casco Bay Bridge approach, Broadway, Ocean Street and E Street are seen by Haueser and planner Evan Richert as ripe for redevelopment that promotes affordable housing and readily available goods and services for an expanded population base of younger families.

Development to support the mixed uses is also targeted in the city's revised Comprehensive Plan.

Haeuser and Richert emphasized three sets of drawings, detailing an extension of Erskine Drive past Waterman Drive; improved pedestrian and bicycle access to Waterman Drive and other streets, and zoning changes to allow taller buildings for commercial and residential use.

The suggestions are not a master plan, they said, but ways to explore adding 175,000 square feet of commercial space and as many as 240 housing units to the area.

The illustrations provided snapshots of what the area might resemble in 20 to 30 years. But Richert also dismissed the grandest of plans as unachievable because of constraints including a lack of parking.

When the audience was asked to list ideas and objections on notes attached to the drawings, suggestions included burying existing overhead utility wires and finding incentives for business owners to accept design standards.

Kenton van Boer, a Willard Beach resident who moved to the city from Long Island, N.Y., about a year ago, called for better mass transportation, and said any future development should be centered around home ownership.

“What we need is a bold vision and the only way to do it is to have people from outside design something that is compelling," he said.

In the short term, Haeuser said the city can amend zoning to allow taller buildings in the area that is now home to the Shaw's Mill Creek Plaza, Mill Creek Shopping Center and Yankee Ford.

Dan Kane, who has also lived in Prince Georges County in Maryland outside Washington, D.C., agreed the Mill Creek area is ready for changes that can help inhibit sprawl in other areas.

"It is certainly underutilized," he said.

In Scarborough, Town Planner Dan Bacon said Dunstan Corner was selected for study because of road reconstruction at the primary intersections with U.S. Route 1, and because of the history of the area as one of five Scarborough village centers.

By early July, an extended southbound left turn from Route 1 to Pine Point Road, the reconstruction of the intersection for better visibility and new right turn lanes on Pine Point and Broadturn roads, and a new access route to northbound Payne Road should be completed, Bacon said.

The town Long Range Planning Committee has also examined future development in the area and a parcel just south of the intersection was recently rezoned to allow multi-unit housing. Between Route 1 and the Maine Turnpike and south of Broadturn Road, the Dunstan Crossing development has single-family homes and condominiums.

The forum next Thursday will present findings and ideas from an April workshop involving business owners and residents, Bacon said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.