Potential development pace chills some Cumberland residents

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CUMBERLAND — Some residents at Monday’s Town Council meeting expressed opposition to the potential pace of development in town.

The opinions were triggered by two items on the agenda: establishing a tax increment financing district around two potential senior housing developments, which passed unanimously, and setting a Jan. 8 public hearing to forge an agreement with a developer for one of those projects, which passed, 4-3.

Cumberland’s TIF District No. 8, dubbed the Tuttle Road Development Project, would include potential projects on both sides of the road. On the northeastern side, across the street from Town Hall at 290 Tuttle Road are the Doane and Godsoe properties, where a senior housing development is proposed.

The developer of the OceanView at Falmouth retirement community is proposing up to 50 cottage homes in the first of a two-phase project called OceanView at Cumberland.

OceanView, which has an option to purchase 41 acres from Richard Doane, would initially develop 35 acres at the rear of the property. The second phase could comprise the nearby Godsoe Trust property, for which OceanView also holds an option, with frontage on Greely Road.

The second TIF project could be a senior development on a 32-acre piece of town land adjacent to Town Hall, on the southwestern side of Tuttle Road. The council next month will hold a public hearing on establishing a joint development agreement with Developers Collaborative for that property.

While the OceanView project would offer market-rate housing for people 55 and older, the town piece would provide more affordable options. That development could comprise a building of 36 single-bedroom apartments between 650-800 square feet, as well as duplexes for both rent (about $1,300-1,400 monthly) and purchase (about $275,000), Town Manager Bill Shane said earlier this month.

Despite that direction, 55 percent of the 85 residents who participated in an Oct. 25 straw poll opposed development of the town property, saying the land should be retained for a future, undecided use, or preserved as open space.

Residents at Monday’s meeting echoed those sentiments.

“I want to express my concern about the speed with which decisions are being made for this development,” Lu Gallaudet of Range Road said. Acknowledging that those polled Oct. 25 were just one group, she asked, “how do we get from there to a Jan. 8 meeting, voting on an act to work with this developer?”

“I think a lot of people are concerned with this idea of growing Cumberland; many people, myself included, like the size of it,” Gallaudet added.

Referring to new housing developments on Route 100 and U.S. Route 1, she said she was not sure she definitely opposes such projects on Tuttle Road, but believes “we need to listen to the townspeople about how they feel about growth … and if they feel there are other options for that land.”

Council Chairman Mike Edes, who later joined Councilors Shirley Storey-King and Bill Stiles in opposing the Jan. 8 hearing, said, “I heard the people loud and clear (at the Oct. 25 meeting) … and I’ll be voting accordingly.”

Councilor Tom Gruber noted a survey by the town’s Aging in Place program about two years ago, which received more than 800 responses, “by far … responded in favor of senior housing,” although the poll did not specify where such a development would happen.

“We need to be careful that we’re not just a town of old people my age,” Gallaudet said with a chuckle. “… It feels that this has been a rush to judgment and that we’ve been left out.”

Cathy Wright of Skillin Road said “it was very clear to me what was said” at the October meeting, adding that while she supports multi-generational housing, “I think there’s so much building going on in Cumberland, and West Falmouth, and in Yarmouth … that I’m afraid we’re just going to over-build. And then we run into the problem of the housing overburden that happened in the ’80s and ’90s.”

Bob Vail of Cumberland Center cautioned the council that by designating an area of town as a TIF district, “you’re inciting growth, more or less. I think we’re stretching ourselves too thin; I think we have too much.”

Expressing his opposition to the build-out of the Tuttle Road properties for housing, he said the council should take a closer look at traffic issues related to such growth.

“I do not want to see more congestion added in the town of Cumberland without some addressing of our concerns,” Vail said. “… I’m not in favor of putting lots more traffic into the center of this community.”

Shane noted that TIF District No. 8 is in a defined growth area, and the Council approved a senior housing overlay for that section months ago.

Councilor Ron Copp noted that while Cumberland has grown in recent years, so has the overall region. He said he favored the projects because there are 150 Cumberland residents on a waiting list to get into senior housing.

Shirley-King said she understood the need for senior housing to free up other homes and attract families “because we can’t grow to be all seniors.”

Still, she added, “my support of the TIF does not come with support of development of that town-owned land. I support it being in a TIF for now, though.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Traffic signal may go up, speed limits down

CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday endorsed requests to the Maine Department of Transportation to add a traffic signal at the intersection of Gray Road (Route 100) with Skillin and Blackstrap roads, looking into signal improvements at Main Street’s intersection with Blanchard and Tuttle roads, and reducing speed limits on three roads.

The council seeks speed limit reductions on U.S. Route 1 (from 45-50 mph to 35-40 mph); Blackstrap Road (40 down to 35 mph), and Blanchard Road Extension (an un-posted dead-end street, proposed to be 25 mph).

The panel supported the speed limit reductions, 6-1, with Chairman Mike Edes opposed. Edes, whose law enforcement experience includes a career with the Maine State Police, said he supports a reduction on Blanchard Road Extension, but opposes the other two.

Edes said he sees no reason to reduce speeds on U.S. Route 1, saying it is “ridiculous” to have a 15-mph school zone for the Friends School along that stretch. He called the zone unnecessary, noting parking is not allowed there along the side of U.S. Route 1, nor is there foot traffic in the area.

Blackstrap Road, recently been improved and widened, can handle the current speed limit, Edes added.

The Council unanimously approved the two traffic signal studies, prompted by heavy traffic concerns during rush hours.

Alex Lear

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.