Scarborough residents organize to fight proposed senior home

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SCARBOROUGH — A New York developer’s plan to build an 81-unit assisted living and dementia facility on Black Point Road near U.S. Route 1 has led to organized opposition from residents in the area.

A handful of neighbors have formed Friends of Oak Hill to fight the Wegman Cos. of Rochester, N.Y. Wegman owns 14 such assisted living facilities, most of them in New York.

The neighbors fear the proposed 59,000-square-foot project will add more traffic on Black Point Road. Some residents of the lower Eastern Road and its side streets also worry that storm-water drainage will flood their property after the senior home, and its impervious, paved surfaces, are built.

The company received preliminary approval from the Planning Board in February and a special exception to allow dementia care from the Zoning Board of Appeals in March. It must go to the Planning Board again for site plan review after obtaining approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Members of the new neighborhood group have spoken in opposition to the project at every Planning Board and Town Council meeting since those preliminary approvals were given – even though the project has not appeared on any town agendas since March.

“It’s frustrating, because it feels like sometimes the town isn’t listening as well as it could,” said Lisa Ronco, who lives across the street from the proposed development. “We’re the gateway to Black Point Road and it’s so bottle-necked here.”

Wegman Cos. said the development wouldn’t substantially add to the traffic in Oak Hill because residents of its similar facilities tend not to drive. The only traffic created would be by employees, visitors and vendors, they’ve said. 

The town’s consulting traffic engineer backed up that claim, according to Dan Bacon, the town planner. Bacon also said Wegman Cos. and the town have worked with the DEP to address concerns about the company’s storm-water drainage plan. 

Bacon said the town respects the residents’ opposition, but reiterated a common refrain from the Planning Board.

“The Planning Board uses the site plan review ordinance standards in issuing approvals or not,” he said. “They understood the general concerns of the public, but at this stage, they felt the project was shaping up to meet those standards.”

Joan Jagolinzer, a retiree who lives in the Cedarbrook Condominiums at the foot of the hill beneath the proposed development site, said she’s worried not only about storm water from Wegmans’ property flooding her backyard, but has concerns about the people who will live in the proposed facility facing insurmountable traffic when trying to leave their homes.

“There will be 60 units that are just assisted-living,” she said. “Those folks will want to get out and walk. We’re concerned about their safety because there’s a proposed very short sidewalk at the site, but after that there isn’t much.”

Joe McEntee, vice president for senior housing at Wegman Cos., and Andrew Johnson of SMRT engineering in Portland, the company’s lead engineer, did not return calls for comment. 

City Councilor Carol Rancourt, a Black Point Road resident and opponent of the plan, said it may not be fruitful for the Friends of Oak Hill to bring their concerns to the Town Council. Ultimately, she admitted, the Planning Board may not be receptive to concerns that fall outside the site plan review standards.

Still, she said, the residents should continue to voice their concerns with the plan.

“What other option do citizens have?” she said. “Certainly their voice is their last right. I think they’re hoping somebody will listen, somebody will think about this, and some modifications can be made to the plan.”

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.

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