SCARBOROUGH — The Town Council on Wednesday unanimously approved the Dunstan Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy proposed by the Scarborough Economic Development Corp. and the Planning and Code Enforcement Department.
According to the strategy’s introduction, written by SEDCO Executive Director Karen Martin, “the plan pulls ideas, concepts and strategies from the Comprehensive Plan, the Sustain Southern Maine Pilot Project (2013), The Scarborough Vision (2003) …,” while also incorporating “the component of neighborhood organization and the development of new tools for communication and community building.”
The Revitalization Plan identifies 28 strategies to address nine identified opportunities and challenges, Martin said: investment in historic buildings; improved visual character and identity; attraction of retail and service businesses; increased housing diversity; improved recreational facilities; increased communication and sense of community; improved traffic flow; improved pedestrian and bicycle facilities; enhanced public transit.
“In many ways, the approval of this plan signals the beginning, rather than a culmination of a project. It sets forth a series of steps to be carried out in a collaborative process with the neighborhood, SEDCO, town committees and others,” Martin wrote.
Mark Ironman of Planning Decisions, which prepared the strategy for the town, agreed: “The strategy is really the start of the process.”
In addressing the council, Martin added that the plan also takes into account the public “hunger for more engagement in the process.”
According to Ironman, the plan focuses on both the larger Dunstan area (“bounded by the Saco line to the south, the Maine Turnpike to the west, and the Scarborough Marsh to the north and east”), as well as the core commercial space, which the plan defines as the area centered on the intersection of Route 1, Broadturn Road and Pine Point Road.
The plan does not propose any zoning or ordinance changes. The vision for the neighborhood, outlined in the plan, says “Dunstan Corner will be a renewed village with nice shops, cafes, walkways, and parks. Auto traffic will be safely managed. A trail will branch out and connect with the Audubon Center, Old Eastern Road, and the beach at Pine Point. Attached and clustered housing will create an affordable and lively neighborhood for young and old. Fields and farms south of Dunstan will be preserved as a gateway from Saco.”
Some of the initiatives that SEDCO proposes to lead in the area include developing a marketing strategy for the neighborhood, complete with coordinated signage and a “welcome to Dunstan” program for new businesses; developing a high-speed Internet plan;the creation of a neighborhood council and distinctive logo for the area; and increasing Dunstan’s presence on social media.
The Planning Department, Historic Preservation Committee, Transportation Committee, Department of Public Works and other entities will pursue goals consistent with their expertise.
Town Planner Dan Bacon said, “Dunstan is in a pretty interesting position right now. … There’s a lot of potential at this point.”
He added that the area is “really poised for some good things to happen,” and that the plan will help to facilitate these good things.
While overall, councilors expressed support for the plan, there were still some concerns.
Councilor James Benedict said he is concerned about paying for the Revitalization Plan.
Martin said SEDCO “plans on doing this within the confines of the existing (SEDCO) budget.” Advertising and marketing might raise the need for additional revenue, but SEDCO plans to approach and engage local businesses to raise funds. Taxpayers would not have to shell out additional money, she said.
Plans for improving the intersection at Dunstan Corner, for example, will not consist of capital projects that will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. Major construction is not within the plan’s aims.
Rather, more attainable options, like better traffic light timing, are suggested in the plan. Other suggestions outlined in the strategy include encouraging drivers to use Haigis Parkway instead of Payne Road and perhaps creating a “new ‘main street’ on land behind the existing buildings on the west side of Route One between Broadturn and Payne Roads.” The latter might reduce congestion on Route 1.
“I want to see it succeed. I’m completely in favor of it,” Councilor Katherine St. Clair said, “but I’m concerned about the traffic and what it’s going to do to the people who already live there.”
Councilor Edward Blaise agreed and said he believes a new turnpike interchange would be needed in order for the plan to be as successful as possible.
“Growth is coming no matter what,” Chairman Richard Sullivan said, adding he believes the plan is effective in that it organizes the area and takes residents’ opinions into account.
The council ultimately approved the plan, 7-0.
Councilor Jean Marie Caterina seemed to sum up the idea behind the strategy and the Council’s approval.
“We need to have a plan for developing this gateway to Scarborough,” she said.