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SCARBOROUGH — After four months of presentations and deliberations, it took Planning Board members four minutes on Dec. 13 to approve the first phase of an office complex off U.S. Route 1 and Hannaford Drive.
The approval could not come quickly enough for Rocky Risbara of Risbara Family Construction, or Dave Libby, the president of Town & Country Federal Credit Union.
“We are starting this week,” Risbara said about construction of the 20,000-square-foot, two story building that will become the operations center for Town & Country.
The office building will become home for the credit union’s lending, mortgage, collections, and operations departments, and its executive offices. Risbara and Libby hope the operations center will be open in about six months, with 45 employees.
“We don’t really have a headquarters, we have staff in various locations,” Libby said.
Libby said the operations center will not have a credit union branch, and all branch locations from Portland to Saco will remain open. The operations coming to Scarborough have been spread around, he said, including at credit union offices at 557 Main St. in South Portland.
South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey and Economic Planning Director Jon Jennings declined comment on the credit union move to Scarborough.
Sited on 2 acres between U.S. Route 1 and Hannaford Drive, the operations center will be accessed by Little Dolphin Drive, but has been scaled back, at least for now, in response to objections from abutter Hannaford Bros. Co.
“We’ve met our goals and their goals with this phase,” Risbara said.
Risbara and his partners, St. Clair Associates of Cumberland, first sought approval for a two-phase, 40,000-square-foot office complex to be built over the next five years.
For now, the first office building and an atrium with parking for 73 vehicles is approved, including a Maine Department of Environmental Protection storm-water permit Risbara discovered might not have been necessary once the project was scaled back to disturb less than an acre.
But the permit was required by Planning Board members, who decided against a conditional approval of the project at their regular meeting Dec. 9. Around 9 a.m. Dec. 10, a copy of the permit was emailed to Town Assistant Planner Jay Chace.
With help from Town Manager Tom Hall, a special Planning Board meeting was convened Dec. 13 at noon in a conference room.
“I was delighted,” Risbara said. “It was one of those things that was needed to be done.”
To get the second phase moving forward, Risbara will have to work out differences with Hannaford Bros.
The original plan sought to link Little Dolphin Drive and Foley Farm Road by an access road, with all three roads offered to the town in the future.
In October, Hannaford Bros. threatened legal action over the use of Foley Farm Road, a private road extending behind the Oak Hill Plaza Shopping Center on Hannaford Drive.
Attorney Scott Anderson said Hannaford Bros. has a 25-year-old purchase option on land owned by the Foley family and Risbara lacks clear title to use Foley Farm Road.
Hannaford officials have also questioned project traffic studies and worry the office complex would increase traffic congestion in the shopping center area.
“We were surprised they were willing to move forward to that extent,” Risbara said. “Our plan is to continue to work with them.”
The Town & Country Federal Credit Union branch at 557 Main St. in South Portland will remain open, but credit union offices could shift to Scarborough by late spring.