Scarborough council gives initial OK to preservation measures

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SCARBOROUGH — The Town Council on Wednesday approved a first reading of zoning amendments to preserve 48 historic structures in town.

To provide incentives for building owners to seek historic preservation, the amendments are reward-based in the form of a residential density credit.

Councilors also received formal notification that construction of the new Wentworth School came in under budget, and learned why regular dredging of the Scarborough River is needed at Pine Point.

Councilors voted unanimously in their initial approval of amendments to the zoning ordinance to establish a new section of historic preservation provisions.

Based on age, architectural significance, and “historical significance of the people or events associated with the property,” the ad hoc Historical Preservation Committee, with the help of the council, listed 48 structures worthy of historic preservation.

To provide incentives for the preservation of a building in a subdivision, for example, the residential density credit allows the owner to”apply the net residential density requirement of the applicable zoning district to the net residential area of the Preservation Lot alone.”

In other words, the incentive is rewards-based.

Town Planner Dan Bacon said the density credit reduces the temptation to tear down a building in order to build a newer structure. 

The new ordinance also provides an exemption to some fire and safety codes, which, in essence, include any updates “that would make them less historic,” Bacon said. 

Council Chairwoman Jessica Holbrook, who also leads the Historic Preservation Committee, said “This is really just a first leg (in the project).” The next leg will likely include historic sites, cemeteries and the town’s wooly mammoth site, Holbrook said. 

“I’m very happy and proud … there’s more to come,” she said.

Wentworth

The Wentworth project was approved as a $39 million project by voters November 2011. But on Wednesday, building committee Chairman Paul Kuzeill said the project came in at $35 million.

“We finished on time, under budget and with money still in the bank,” Kuzeill said.

The “saddest” addition, according to Kuzeill, which came late in the budgeting process, was the decision to upgrade the third- through fifth-grade school with $10,000 in security measures – a move spurred by the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut.

The “coolest” addition, he said, was the use of wood for benches and a coffee table from “Elsa,” a 200-year-old Elm tree that had to be removed from along Route 1.

Generally, Kuzeill said, “this project ran exceptionally well.”

Pine Point

In a workshop before the meeting, councilors discovered that Pine Point Beach has been episodically growing and shrinking.

Peter Slovinsky, a Scarborough resident and geologist with the Maine Geological Survey, presented the council with a recently completed short-term study of the phenomenon taking place at the mouth of the Scarborough River as it empties into Saco Bay.

The centuries-old process that begins with sediment from the White Mountains floating down a series of rivers until it reaches the ocean, has created a “sediment sink,” Slovinsky said.

Through a series of aerial photographs dating back to 1962, councilors could see the effect of the sink, and its “ebb shoal effect,” which is compounded by the directional flipping of the channel, due to tides, large waves hitting shore, dredging, and the jetty installation at the tip of Pine Point in the late 1950s, Slovinsky said.

On average, the dry shoreline and sand dunes on Pine Point have experienced a 1.5- to 2-meter shift each year since 1880, according to a long-term study executed by the U.S. Geological Survey, Slovinsky said. 

“Since the 1850s, Pine Point has accreted at some of the highest rates in Maine,” he said. 

The only negative shoreline changes are down the coast at the mouth of the Saco River, Slovinsky said, simply because the sediment that empties from the Scarborough River is forced south because Prout’s Neck blocks northbound sediment.

Because the phenomenon ebbs and flows at a pretty steady rate, it’s not something to be particularly concerned about, but it does ensure the need for dredging every five to 10 years, Slovinsky said. 

Since dredging at the mouth of the river was recently completed last month, Slovinsky advised the council, “I think it is very, very important, post dredge, to look at how that channel whips around.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.