Planning Board calls special meeting for Scarborough office project; El Rayo moves forward

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SCARBOROUGH — The first phase of office development on Little Dolphin Drive is likely to be approved at noon Friday in a special Planning Board meeting.

Approval of a 20,000-square-foot, two-story office building proposed by Risbara Family Development was delayed Monday night because a Maine Department of Environmental Protection storm-water permit had not been issued.

In the meantime Monday, the board approved an amended site plan for the owners of El Rayo Taqueria in Portland, who will open another restaurant at Oak Hill.

Assistant Town Planner Jay Chace said a copy of the permit for Risbara was emailed to him at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, but the next Planning Board regular meeting was scheduled for Jan. 6, 2014.

Instead, the board will meet Friday, with the Risbara project the only item on the agenda. Board Chairman Alan Paul said Monday that approval seemed “a given” once the DEP permit was granted.

The office will be headquarters for Town & Country Federal Credit Union, now on Hinckley Drive in South Portland, and the project may be doubled in size in the next five years with a second phase that will require Planning Board review.

For now, the special meeting should relieve some frustration for Rocky Risbara, who implored Planning Board members to make some kind of conditional approval Monday so work could start.

“We are ready to go in the ground, we are ready to close the deal and have a tenant and they want to be there,” Risbara said as he sought permission to at least begin site work unrelated to building construction.

Further frustrating Risbara were recalculations of the scope of the project’s first phase indicating the state permit was unnecessary because it disturbed less than an acre of the two-acre site.

“I feel like I am going to get penalized for another four weeks, and it has been hurdle after hurdle on this project,” Risbara said.

Paul said he was sympathetic to Risbara, but unwilling to break the precedent of requiring state permits in hand before giving final approval to local projects.

He invited board members Jeffrey Thomas, Cory Fellows and Nicholas McGee to move for conditional approval, but they declined.

Risbara also reduced the size of the project for immediate approval because of objections from Hannaford Bros., which leases land abutting Foley Farm Road.

In October, the company threatened legal action if the Planning Board approves a plan incorporating Foley Farm Road as an access route, claiming it has an option to buy the road. The now-private road extends behind Oak Hill Shopping Plaza.

For now, the office will be accessed by Little Dolphin Drive, which intersects with U.S. Route 1.

El Rayo

El Rayo will occupy the former Cumberland Farms store at 245 U.S. Route, 1 near the intersection with Gorham Road.

The site plan change allows outdoor seating for 30 in the summer by shifting existing parking spaces from the side of the building and the construction of a new entrance foyer.

Contractors are already gutting the interior of the 4,500-square-foot building, which also housed Jackson-Hewitt tax service branch and Cartridge World.

The original El Rayo is at 101 York St. in Portland. The Scarborough El Rayo is expected to open in May, owner Tod Dana said.

The site plan had already been approved, but Paul wanted to be certain Dana would keep seating constant at about 100, whether it was all indoor or split with outdoor seating, to ensure parking regulations are met.

“Outside of that,” Paul joked, “can you be open next weekend?”

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

Sidebar Elements

Interior work has already started for the new El Rayo Mexican restaurant coming to 245 U.S. Route 1 in Oak Hill. On Monday, the Planning Board approved outdoor seating for 30 at the restaurant, expected to open next May.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.