Scarborough retirement community's contract zone proposal gets chilly council reception

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SCARBOROUGH — Piper Shores retirement community is seeking approval to build 52 new residences across the street from its 138-acre facility.

But in a workshop Wednesday night, some town councilors said they are wary of granting the contract zone amendment the project requires.

Piper Shores, at 15 Piper Road, is the town’s largest single-lot taxpayer, with an assessed value of $84.9 million and an annual property tax bill of more than $1.4 million, according to Tax Assessor David Bouffard.

The community has approximately 350 residents in four areas of care: independent living, assisted living, memory care and nursing. Andrea Killard, director of marketing and life enrichment at Piper Shores, said there are approximately 190 people on a waiting list for independent living; they will likely wait, she noted, for four to seven years. 

Because it includes 96 acres of conserved land, there is little room for growth on the community’s property.

Instead, Piper Shores is seeking an amendment to its contract zone with the town, which was granted in 1997, to include property at 5 Dorado Drive to develop additional independent living units. 

The development would include 16 duplexes, 28 apartments with a common clubhouse, and eight single-family homes. The application is for 61 units, which would allow the potential for future growth. 

Piper Shores agreed to buy the 45-acre Dorado Drive property in July 2017 from David and Patricia MacDonald. The agreement includes a 24-month deadline to reach all necessary terms, including town approval of zoning changes to complete the project. 

The MacDonald property is in the town’s Rural Farming Zone, which limits development to one housing unit for every 2 acres. 

According to Town Manager Tom Hall, the property could accommodate 15 single-family homes without the contract zone change because of required setbacks and roadway lengths.

The Town Council has sole authority to authorize contract zones, which are intended to allow reasonable uses of land that would not have been permitted by existing zoning regulations, but remain consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and compatible with existing and permitted uses in the area. 

Contract zones must also provide greater public benefit than if projects were built under current zoning classifications.

Piper Shores Chief Executive Jim Adamowicz said additional Piper Shores housing would provide benefits for both seniors and the town, including tax revenue, a required $122,000 contribution to the town’s affordable housing fund, volunteerism, and maintenance of surrounding public walking trails in perpetuity.

Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina said she liked the design of the proposed buildings, but struggled to see a public benefit that would warrant the contract zone amendment.

“The only thing that would convince me to vote for this is if I saw some substantial public good,” she said. “… I’m just not seeing the benefit here.”

Chairman Peter Hayes agreed, saying the proposal’s compliance with the Comprehensive Plan and public benefit were “coming up short.”

Some councilors said there could be additions or enhancements in the plan that would turn their vote around, perhaps by building sidewalks along Spurwink Avenue, or increasing the buffering in abutting neighborhoods.

“I think I could get to ‘yes,’ but it’s going to take a lot of work,” Councilor William Donovan said.

Councilor Paul Johnson, who described the development as apartments, rather than a nursing home, said he wants the council to decide if the proposal “is right or not … (not) how can (they) buy us off.”

Residents of Newcomb Ridge and Acorn Lane, which abut the MacDonald property, on Wednesday urged the council not to approve the application as proposed. Some had concerns about impacts on privacy, traffic and water quality; blasting during construction, and the height of the proposed apartments – which was recently scaled back from 55 to 40 feet. The height limit in the RF zone is 35 feet.

Laurie Youmans, who bought her property on Newcomb Ridge in 2017, said she doesn’t see any public benefit and would rather see 15 or 16 single-family homes built on the site. 

“(Piper Shores is) a closed community,” Youmans said. “All the money goes directly to Piper Shores.”

Her husband, Tim, said the proposal is not compatible with the Comprehensive Plan’s limited growth sector, which includes the Dorado Road property.

“Why have a Comprehensive Plan and zoning if you aren’t going to abide by its rules,” Laurie Youmans said. ” … If this (contract zone amendment) goes through, what’s stopping me from putting a mini hotel on my other acre?”

Jeff Jones, of Acorn Lane, said all of his neighbors signed a letter saying they oppose the proposal.

The council will continue to deliberate the contract zone proposal while the Planning Board begins a technical site plan review, starting with a meeting on Monday, Jan. 14.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

The Piper Shores retirement community wants to add 52 residences at 5 Dorado Drive in Scarborough, but needs a contract zone amendment for the project. This is an rendering of a proposed 18-unit apartment complex. 

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