Questions raised about plan for Cape Elizabeth condos, apartments

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A proposed 46-unit residential development on Spurwink Avenue is drawing neighbors’ concern about tree removal and the exterior building design. 

Planning Board members listened to several residents’ questions during a public hearing Monday night on the Maxwell Woods concept.

Developer Joel FitzPatrick wants to build 38 condominiums and 8 apartments in two buildings at 112-114 Spurwink Ave. FitzPatrick is seeking a major subdivision review and resource protection permit to move forward with his plans. 

The developer of the new project must follow two local ordinances: offering residences priced toward moderate and lower incomes, and preserving 45 percent of the total project footprint as open space. 

The condominiums are designed to attract people age 55 and older. However, there is no age guideline or restriction on the apartments and duplexes.

Engineer Owens McCullough represented FitzPatrick, fielding questions from the board and audience. 

Spurwink Avenue resident David Cummings said the sight lines from a roadway where people often drive 15 to 20 miles above the speed limit may limit pedestrian safety. Cummings asked if some nearby trees would be removed so drivers and walkers near the intersection of Spurwink Avenue and Route 77 could better see one another.

Trees factored into other speakers’ questions, most of whom wanted more and older trees growing on the 18-acre project site to remain standing. 

Churchill Road resident Becky Fernald said she wants as many older-growth trees preserved as possible, instead of creating too much open space. 

“I think that would be destroying some of the natural beauty of the area,” Fernald said of the trees. “If someone moves into this area, they’re going to be looking at a whole bunch of condos.”

Walking trails open to the public are part of the project’s design. Emily Helliesen noted the need for trees along the walking path. There will be condos on both sides of the trails.

“Preserve more of the woods around those trails,” Helliesen said. “I would just like to see a bigger buffer.”

Margaret Gill of Canterbury Way said she is concerned Cumberland County is losing its rural feel with too much development. Gill, a 32-year resident, referred to Cape Elizabeth as once being in the country, compared to Portland.

Planning Board member Victoria Volent asked if the proposed walking trails between the buildings would be staked or posted so that people know they are walking on the trail and not in someone’s backyard.

The trails would not be paved, but would feature low-impact ground covering, McCullough said. The trails, infrastructure and road grading could be done in one year-long phase. Building construction, if the project is approved, would take place over several years.

Volent said she is not necessarily opposed to the apartments or buildings. But will they look, design- and materials-wise, as though they belong in this New England town, she asked. 

Board member Jonathan Sahrbeck mentioned keeping more trees as a natural buffer between and near the buildings. Walking trail markers also are critical, he said.

As the snow melts, it may be easier for board members to imagine the look of the buildings, trails, trees and land slope. The board on Feb. 11 did a project site walk.

“It might be a good idea to have a site walk without snow on the ground so you can better see grade lines,” Planning Board Chairwoman Carol Anne Jordan said.

Input from the Feb. 27 public hearing will  help the board make its decision later this year. March 21 is the next date scheduled for board review.

Lisa Connell can be reached at 781-3661,ext. 183 or Follow Lisa on Twitter: @connell_ld.