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Scarborough Downs gambles again on racino at heart of new town center

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Scarborough Downs gambles again on racino at heart of new town center

SCARBOROUGH — If Scarborough Downs has its way, residents will be voting again on whether to allow a racino in town.

The Planning Board now has the language and maps necessary to rezone more than 450 acres owned by Scarborough Downs, passed along after a 6-0 Town Council vote Wednesday night.

Andrew Ingalls, a broker and developer with Portland-based CBRE Boulos Co., said the racetrack land can become a vibrant town center if plans to create a Crossroads Planned Development District are approved by the council on a second reading as early as next month.

“My expertise is demand, and this will create demand,” Ingalls said of a mixed-use residential and commercial area with a racino as a "central dynamic use."

The current zoning language lists video and casino gambling as prohibited uses, but Town Planner Dan Bacon noted it can be easily amended if councilors and residents approve a change.

Plans to rezone the area surrounding the track, while also creating a new residential zone at the edge of the land near Sawyer Road, and changing business zoning along Payne Road from just above Ginn Road to the Nonesuch River, will first be considered for a positive recommendation by the Planning Board.

Following that, the proposed zone changes will return to councilors for a public hearing and second reading. The zoning changes have already been endorsed by the Long Range Planning Committee.

Ingalls and Ed MacColl, the lawyer representing Scarborough Downs owner Sharon Terry, said they like the proposed zoning changes, and are eager to have residents reconsider some kind of video or casino gambling on the property.

MacColl said the increased revenue would help the harness racing industry.

"Mrs. Terry is dedicated to saving Maine harness racing,” he said.

Ingalls said because retail options in town may be saturated, "something as dynamic as a gaming facility” would be a perfect centerpiece to development including multi-story residences. Ingalls said the development could be accessed on Scarborough Downs Road and by improving a road connecting the land to Haigis Parkway.

Plans to build a racino near the track were rejected by voters in 2008. In 2010, Terry was courted by Biddeford officials and gained voter support there to build a racino on land off Route 111, west of the Maine Turnpike. The plans were halted in 2011, when proposals for gambling in Biddeford and Washington County were defeated in a statewide referendum.

Gambling at Scarborough Downs would again require approval from voters across the state.

With or without gambling, Bacon said the new zoning will allow a “significant amount of opportunities and also a significant amount of buffers,” with provisions to allow single- and multi-family dwellings, restaurants without drive-through windows, offices, hotels and motels.

In other business Wednesday, councilors gave final approval to a zoning change on about six acres of land at Black Point and Old Neck roads. The decision allows owners Robert Jr. and Joyce Jensen to build another home on the property.

William Donovan, who ran unsuccessfully for Town Council last fall, was named to the committee overseeing the new Employee Incentive Program created at the suggestion of Councilor Ed Blaise. The committee offers financial rewards to municipal staff and residents whose ideas show demonstrable savings in town spending.

Councilor Kate St. Clair was unable to attend the 90-minute council meeting.

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