South Portland residents seek more scrutiny of Martin's Point proposal

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Residents who live near the former Hamlin Elementary School have collected more than 200 signatures in opposition to a health-care center proposed for the property.

Martin’s Point Health Care on March 9 announced its desire to move from Knightville into expanded facilities at the former school at Ocean and Sawyer streets.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, neighborhood resident Adam Lampton, with 206 signatures in hand, requested that the council hold an additional workshop on the proposal.

Lampton’s appeal came during one of two public comment portions of the meeting. Councilors did not respond to the request. 

Lampton said residents don’t want the area turned into a parking lot. “Green space at this site is very unique in our community,” she said.

The city owns the property, which now houses the Planning and Development Department. It also leases space for a 40-plot community garden behind the building.  

At the March 9 meeting, Richard Daigle, vice president of support services at Martin’s Point, initially presented preliminary plans that would allow a facility up to 17,500 square feet. But after hearing public comment, Daigle said he had a “gut feeling” that a building of 12,000-14,000 square feet would better suit the area.

Martin’s Point is a nonprofit health-care provider with about 800 employees, 30 of whom now work in a 10,000-square-foot facility at 51 Ocean St.

Lampton, along with Susan Chase, Peter Turner and Ann Helfrich, attended Wednesday’s meeting to support the idea that the opposition isn’t just a handful of people. 

They said they wanted to make clear that their effort is not against Martin’s Point as an organization; rather, Chase said, it’s against the idea of installing a disproportionate building and impervious space. 

“We’re asking for the development of that corner (to match) the scale of other (surrounding) businesses,” Chase said. 

The sale of the land was always inevitable, but preserving the green space could protect the area from future larger-scale proposals, Turner said.

The Martin’s Point proposal and possible encroachment on green space, along with the council’s past deliberations on whether to preserve a Thornton Heights lot at the corner of Main and Westbrook streets, has raised questions the city’s guidelines for preserving open space.

Councilor Tom Blake, at the March 9 workshop, used the Martin’s Point proposal to highlight what he thinks is the “single, biggest” problem facing the city. “It’s not that we have an open space plan,” he said. “We don’t haven an open space philosophy.”

Moreover, unlike the Thornton Heights space, Chase said, the parcel in South Portland Heights is used every day, year-round.

“Here’s a (group) of people saying, ‘Hey, I use this space on a regular basis,'” she said. “We’re actively using this space, so it only makes sense to use it and not give it away.”

Since the first workshop, Chase volunteered to be the neighborhood liaison for the city and representatives of Martin’s Point, but she hasn’t yet been contacted by anyone from either entity. 

Despite the lack of communication, said Chase, “we wanted to move ahead and demonstrate our support.” 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.