Opponents urge board to squash Scarborough Beach park plan

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SCARBOROUGH — The Planning Board on Monday got an earful from residents opposed to a plan for a new, for-profit park at Scarborough Beach.

Sprague Corp.’s plan to build a park on 62 acres off Black Point Road, with a 370-car parking lot, has been met with anger and lawsuits since it was first proposed early last year.

Monday’s meeting was expected to be the last opportunity for public comment on the park proposal. Assistant Town Planner Jay Chace said the plan would come before the board again sometime in March, if the developer obtains a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection.

The board has been conducting a site plan review for months, but has not allowed public comment since September.

Opponents – including one member of the Sprague family – addressed the board Monday and said the park will create noise, traffic, environmental and visual problems, change the character of the neighborhood and degrade a piping plover habitat.

“If this site plan is approved, it will inevitably change this area of the town of Scarborough,” said Natalie Burns, an attorney representing opponents of the park in a lawsuit against Sprague Corp. “It will negatively impact everything people value about the area.”

A lawsuit has also been filed against Sprague on behalf of Jackie Quimby, who shares with the Spragues ownership of beach access at the area proposed for the park. Quimby argues she was never consulted on the plan for the park.

“A co-owner of property does not have a right to use the property for profit without the consent of the other co-owner,” said attorney Debbie Mann, who represents Quimby.

Og Hunnewell, a Prout’s Neck resident, was one of a handful of speakers to question whether the park proposal, with it’s parking lot the length of two football fields, is in line with the town’s 2006 Comprehensive Plan.

The area off Black Point Road is described in the plan as ideal for low-density residential development designed to “maintain the rural character of the area” and protect natural resources.

“Using these guidelines, we shouldn’t even be here today,” he said. ““Just look at Old Orchard Beach and other Maine areas to our south to see the effects on unchecked and excessive beach growth.”

Sprague Corp. has argued its plan meets another goal of the Comprehensive Plan, which is to increase access to the beach.

But Hunnewell said Black Point Road is already backed up in the summer thanks to traffic jams near Scarborough Beach State Park. Adding capacity for 370 more cars would just make matters worse, he said.

“Even the applicant’s traffic consultant said traffic count on Black Point Road will increase 50 percent,” he reminded board members.

Perhaps the most surprising voice in opposition to the plan was Julie Sprague of Cape Elizabeth. She and Seth Sprague, who is leading the development of the park, share the same ancestor, P. Shaw Sprague, who bought up land in Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth for conservation.

The Sprague family members are the joint caregivers of that land through the Black Point Corp., which owns Sprague Corp.

“Should the parking lot gain the permit and proceed, it would destroy the essence of Scarborough, as it would no longer remain an oasis in this hurried and sometimes dangerous world,” she said.

“Although I’m opposed to this park/lot application,” Sprague continued, “I support my family in its quest for a more meaningful cash-flow with less disruption to a beautiful community which my family has enriched and cherished for several generations.”

Planning Board member Cory Fellows told the opponents their words weren’t falling on deaf ears.

“We really do take this all to heart and take it very seriously and give it the same weight we give any other information and data we receive,” he said. “This is certainly an unprecedented amount of public input.”

Representatives from Sprague Corp. were present but did not speak at the meeting. 

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.