Oak Hill safety improvements possible this year in Scarborough

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SCARBOROUGH — The Transportation Committee presented an update on plans for Oak Hill crosswalk enhancements and pedestrian safety improvements at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting.

The council also passed a first reading of ordinances that would streamline the review process for development on historic lands. 

Town Planner Dan Bacon, who spoke on behalf of the committee, outlined the creation of new crosswalks and protection islands on three sides of the Oak Hill intersection, new pedestrian signals for crossing the street and more street lighting.

The plans also propose removing the right lane on Route 1 southbound nearest to Walgreens and re-purposing the space into a storm water collection area with trees and contemporary landscaping. 

According to the committee’s findings, the driveway from the Citgo Station entering Black Point Road is a “high-crash location.” The hope is that extending the sidewalk and narrowing the driveway will reduce accidents.

The panel also proposes a textured drivable concrete treatment for the left lane of Route 1 northbound near Fairfield Road, after finding that motorists often treat the unclearly defined median space as a lane, which can lead to collisions. 

These improvements would be additional to the new sidewalks added last fall on Black Point Road leading to Eastern Road. 

The committee, which began meeting in 2012 with the highest priority goal of improving pedestrian safety, traffic congestion and general aesthetics in the Oak Hill area, plans to finance the project with traffic impact fee funds totaling $280,000, which ensures that tax money will not be used toward construction.

The committee will have to coordinate with the Maine Department of Transportation before entering into the final design stage.

Construction could begin in late fall, but Town Manager Tom Hall suggested delaying plans until spring 2015 because the town may be suffering from “construction fatigue.”

More funding details are expected from the Finance Committee at its March 18 meeting. 

Historic properties

The Town Council also approved the first reading of three ordinances that would allow the Planning Board to eventually review applications locally, rather than having it done at the state level, for those wishing to develop on the town’s historic sites.

The reading passed 6-0, with Councilor Katherine St. Clair absent.

Typically, in order to develop on a historic site in Maine, developers must go through the state site law review, which can take several months and is often expensive, according to Bacon.

He said the Planning Board is qualified to perform those site law reviews locally, and having that municipal capacity would make the development review process more efficient and encourage development.

The council last week received an unofficial list of almost 50 structures and sites that are considered historic. They include the Honeywell house at Oak Hill, the Dunstan School Restaurant and the Black Point Inn.

Under the current wording of the ordinances, advice from the Scarborough Historical Society is encouraged, but not required, in the Planning Board’s decision-making process. Applicants must prove that they made preservation efforts, but complete preservation of all things deemed historic on a site is not required.

But, Councilor Jessica Holbrook noted, “There should be some things kept somewhat sacred.”

Final approval for the site law review will take place at the council’s next meeting, March 19.

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or scarignan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.