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Scarborough workshop looks at past, future of Dunstan Corner

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Scarborough workshop looks at past, future of Dunstan Corner

SCARBOROUGH — Bangor-based planner Evan Richert sees plenty of promise in Dunstan Corner.

“This may be a once-in-a-generation type of opportunity,” Richert said Tuesday night as the results of a Pilot Communities study by Sustain Southern Maine were discussed at a Town Hall forum. The results were drawn from an April 9 workshop involving town officials, business and property owners, and residents.

A combination of nearly completed road reconstruction at U.S. Route 1 and Payne, Broadturn and Pine Point roads, and recent zoning changes to encourage mixed-use development, drew attention from Sustain Southern Maine as participants discussed creating sustainable growth and lifestyles.

Tuesday's forum highlighted how an area between Payne and Broadturn roads and bordered by U.S. Route 1 could be transformed into a village center-like setting, with affordable housing and commercial and professional services within walking distance.

Richert emphasized the conceptual sketches for development between Payne and Broadturn roads are just that: conceptual.

“What you are seeing today is not a mini master plan for Dunstan," he said. "We would not be that presumptuous."

Using existing buildings and the new intersection where Payne Road meets Route 1, the study depicts gradual development of multi-story housing, extending up and back from Payne Road and above Phillips Stream.

Frontage along Route 1 is already filled by retail and professional businesses, but planners and residents said other businesses, especially a grocery store, would be needed to fully create an environment that both accommodates traffic and requires less reliance on vehicles.

A village center atmosphere would be a recreation of past eras in Dunstan Corner, another factor that made the area ripe for study, Richert said. Town Council Vice Chairwoman Judy Roy was among those who recalled a cluster of churches, homes and businesses in the area, while neighborhood resident Bob Curtis said more immediate efforts can be made to link subdivisions and amenities.

Curtis suggested an abandoned road could be converted to a pedestrian boardwalk to eliminate the need to drive to the Scarborough Marsh preserve, and said an area coffee shop would help residents get to know each other.

"I meet people at the grocery store, and I have to drive there," he said.

Richert asked participants to list what would promote or inhibit the conceptual plans. While Town Manager Tom Hall noted the municipal work of construction and zoning revisions are about done, Planning Board member Cory Fellows said he hears an inherent conflict from people as they discuss what they might like to see because of worries about traffic and the area quality of life.

“I kind of feel there is a split personality on this,” Fellows said.

Town Planner Dan Bacon said it's possible that no individual developer would want to go first with a project, in part because people outside Scarborough might feel Oak Hill is the only viable area for a project.

Funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency, the $1.6 million Pilot Communities project is overseen by the Greater Portland Council of Governments.

A similar study was conducted in South Portland with concepts discussed May 9. Areas of Gray, Kennebunk, Kittery, Portland, Standish, Wells, Westbrook and Windham were also studied.

Consultant Carol Morris said study parameters also required some work has already been done in an area, and growth potential must be evident.

“We're not going to a place where nobody wants growth,” she said.

U.S. Census data in the study shows the area from the Saco city line to Haigis Parkway contains 4,500 people, about 20 percent of Scarborough's population.

Traffic studies show almost 31,000 vehicles can pass through the area daily, and Scott Hastings, who works with Morris, said the plans call for channeling traffic away from bigger roads, while increasing population density to attract more public transportation.

"We are trying to hit the sweet spot," he said.

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