SCARBOROUGH — Planners and residents took a fact-finding field trip Monday to a section of Scarborough Beach that its owners hope to turn into a new 64-acre public park at Black Point.
But the trip, organized by the Planning Board and the land owner, Sprague Corp., did little to ease some neighbors’ fears that the park will be too big and cumbersome for the small stretch of beach it will serve.
Later, planners had mixed reviews for the latest proposal for condos at Pine Point.
The beach walk was led by Terry DeWann, a landscape architect working for Sprague. He led the planners and the 50 or so residents around the parcel, including where the proposed boardwalk would cut through the wetland and dunes to spill out to the center of Sprague-owned beach.
DeWann led onlookers to the beach, where he said the tide was unusually high thanks to Hurricane Ophelia passing 500 miles out to the east.
Residents opposed to the park plan have said there isn’t enough beach access proposed to justify a 370-car parking lot, and have questioned Sprague’s assertion that the 850-foot beachfront can handle up to 900 people.
“Interesting how many people just today had to stand on the dune grass because there wasn’t enough room on the beach,” said Paul Cunningham, a South Portland resident who said he’s been coming to the beach to surf for many years.
Neighbors said privately that they were upset after the tour by how close the proposed parking lot, turnaround and concession stand would be to their homes. Several abutters have filed a lawsuit, alleging the Zoning Board of Appeals erred in its decision to green-light the Sprague proposal.
The land is currently leased for agricultural use, which Sprague says will continue if the park is built. A portion of the proposed parking lot would fall on agricultural land, but much of it would remain untouched.
The company has said the park plan melds its goals of land conservation with the town’s goal of more public beach access.
On Monday night, another contentious proposal divided residents and the Planning Board.
Brothers Nicholas and Peter Truman have a plan to turn their Lighthouse Inn at Pine Point from a seasonal 22-unit hotel into a 12-unit townhouse-style condominium complex. The footprint of the hotel wouldn’t change, but a third floor would be built inside a dormered roof, bringing each three-story condo to about 1,150 square feet.
The Trumans say that after decades of family ownership, they’re ready to get out of the hotel business. Shifting from a commercial use to a residential one would move the building closer to compliance with Pine Point’s residential zone, but the size of the project falls outside current rules and will require approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
On Monday, the Truman’s sought an advisory opinion form the Planning Board, hoping to return to the ZBA with the planners’ support.
But the Planning Board gave a split opinion on the issue. Most members supported the plan in theory, but concerns about density and parking left others unhappy.
Board member Cory Fellows said the Truman’s plan was an acceptable shift from one nonconforming use to another.
“I don’t see this as being substantially different or greater in impact than what’s there now,” Fellows said. “It’s likely to be more consistent with the surrounding area. I understand the concerns about density, but it’s a simple number exercise. We’re going from 22 units to 12. I think the overall impact will be minimal when all is said and done.”
Others agreed with neighbors who spoke at the meeting, saying the idea of putting 12 condos on a less-than-one-acre lot seemed a bit much.
“I agree that the change from a commercial to a residential use is more consistent with the neighborhood,” board member Kerry Corthell said. “I have a real problem, though, with the density and potential intensity of use. “The fact that (it would be) all year instead of six months means a lot more issues with parking, with traffic.”
The Trumans’ proposal has reignited a 6-year-old feud between the hoteliers and some of their neighbors, who also opposed a plan five years ago for the Trumans to convert to condos. The Lighthouse Inn owners say the issues brought up then – parking and beach access – have been resolved since the hotel swapped land with the town, resulting in Snowberry Ocean View Park.
The Truman’s proposal wasn’t without its supporters. Sue Bayley, of Bayley’s Lobster Pound, said condominiums are “the right direction” for the inn.
She said she is concerned that if the plan isn’t approved, the Trumans may just sell the property as a hotel. At that point, someone could open it year round. A year-round condo, she said, is better for the area than a year-round hotel.
During an Oct. 3 site walk, Terry DeWann, left, landscape architect for Sprague Corp., shows Planning Board members and about 50 residents where the company hopes to build a new public park with access to Scarborough Beach.