Planning Board pleased with Oak Hill assisted living plans

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SCARBOROUGH — After more than two hours of discussion in a four-hour meeting Monday night, Planning Board Chairman Allen Paul had three questions for developers of a proposed assisted living center in Oak Hill. 

“Do you feel the groundwater pre-project versus the groundwater post-project will be improved?” Paul asked project engineer Andrew Johnston of SMRT, and Peter Tubbs of SYT Design Consultants.

Both said yes.

“Do you feel that the groundwater impact of this development will negatively impact anybody upstream or downstream?” Paul then asked.

Both said no.

“Do you feel that this project will negatively impact traffic flow on the intersection of Oak Hill substantially?” Paul asked Tom Gorrill of Gray-based Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers and independent traffic engineer Bill Bray.

Both said no.

Tubbs and Bray provided peer review for the plans developed by SMRT and Gorrill-Palmer.

“I am not trying to make this a small issue in any fashion,” Paul said.

The proposed 81-bed, 59,000 square-foot two story facility was preliminarily approved by the Planning Board in January. The center will have a 20-bed center for residents with dementia, approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals in March.

“I cannot sit in this chair and deny this project on traffic,” he said.

The board was not voting on the project on Black Point Road, they need to see more details about site lighting and landscaping and drainage systems first. They also need to know developers Wegman Cos. of Rochester, N.Y. received site location and natural resource permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Johnston said the reviews of state permit applications could be done by the end of this month.

The Planning Board did invite a second round of public comment at Monday’s meeting as part of a review of the plans. Developers added widening Oak Hill Road, a dedicated left turn lane into the center, sidewalks along the length of the property, and a retention pond to hold runoff while flow is channeled away from neighboring properties.

Friends of Oak Hill members Joan Jagolinzer, Lisa Ronco, John Phelps and Stephanie Ruel were among neighbors who questioned storm water mitigation efforts, additional traffic, the potential loss of habitat for the endangered New England cottontail rabbit and how the new center would fit into the residential neighborhood.

Ronco and Phelps said a May traffic study showing about 16,000 cars use Black Point Road daily, and Bray estimated the amount could increase by 5,000 vehicles daily in summer months.

Bray and Gorrill said their studies show vehicles would need to turn left into the center about once every 10 minutes in peak travel hours. The lane extensions could also alleviate congestion approaching Route 1 on Oak Hill Road.

The lane and sidewalk extensions pleased board member Cory Fellows.

“They are going above and beyond what we could expect them to do,” he said.

Ronco and others urged connecting the center to Route 1 at the Hannaford Drive intersection, but Johnstone said the required permit from the Army Corps of Engineers would be difficult to get and road construction would be expensive.

Jagolinzer and Phelps questioned the effects of water flow from the developed site. Phelps held a jar of water he said was from his basement flooding asked the board about contingency funds or other methods to hold site developers responsible for any damages caused by development.

Jagolinzer said the home sits downhill from the proposed center and has erosion and runoff problems. With new development uphill and news showing New England storms are gaining in severity, she said the board needed to ensure the project had no adverse effects on abutters.

Johnston said the clay-lined retention pond water diversion efforts should improve conditions while Tubbs said he doubted the project would harm Phelps’ home because he lives uphill from the site.

After a site walk with DEP Project Project Manager Lisa Vickers and State Biologist Judy Camuso, Johnston said officials downplayed the presence of the cottontail rabbit on the 8.53 acres Wegman Cos. bought almost a year ago from the Jarvis Group.

The board agreed area traffic needs to be addessed, but not because of the Wegman plans. In concluding, Paul said he was satisfied with the plans so far.

“I really feel like the applicant is trying to be a neighbor,” he said.

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

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.