Sprague Corp. pulls plan for Scarborough Beach park

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SCARBOROUGH — Sprague Corp. on Wednesday pulled its proposal for a new park on 62 acres of beachfront property near Black Point Road.

“It really was an economic decision,” Seth Sprague, president of family owned Sprague Corp., said in an interview Wednesday. “We were trying to project what our investment was going to be to get the project up, and it reached the breaking point.”

Sprague would not disclose how much money has been spent on the so-called Black Point Park proposal. In a prepared statement he said planning costs and the “rigors of public process” forced the company to kill the plan.

The plan has been in the works for nearly a year, including a five-month-long site plan review process with Scarborough’s Planning Board, which ended this month.

Along the way, the proposal met stern opposition and legal challenges from neighbors who said noise, traffic and environmental impacts from the proposed park and its 370-car parking lot would harm their neighborhood.

“We were stunned when we found out,” said Martha Baidarka, who lives at 376 Black Point Road and opposed the Sprague proposal. “I think they were astonished that so many of us turned out time after time, that we were all banded together to make this go away.”

Baidarka said she knew residents were seen as “NIMBYs” (a term used for residents opposed to development, short for “Not in my backyard”), but said she didn’t mind.

“It is my backyard,” she said.”Why do we have to grow? Why do we have to become anything other than a nice, quiet, rural bedroom community?”

Sprague maintained throughout the process that his proposal was in line with the town’s Comprehensive Plan goal of increasing public access to Scarborough’s beaches.

Opponents said the plan was against the spirit of the town’s stated goal of maintaining “the rural character of the area” and protecting natural resources in Black Point.

“Just look at Old Orchard Beach and other Maine areas to our south to see the effects on unchecked and excessive beach growth,” Prouts Neck resident Og Hunnewell said at the January site plan review meeting.

Sprague notified Scarborough Town Planner Dan Bacon and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection of his decision in a letter dated Feb. 1.

“We remain confident that the project was worthwhile and that the design would eventually have been approved,” he wrote. “However, in light of the escalating projected costs to see the project through to completion, The Sprague Corporation board felt that withdrawal was the most prudent course of action.”

Assistant Planning Director Jay Chace said he didn’t have much to say about Sprague’s decision, but that he didn’t think the town had imposed any particularly stringent time or money requirements on a project of the size Sprague was proposing.

“The Planning Board was pretty much done with its review process,” he said. “We worked with the Spragues about what the process would look like because there were so many layers to the project: traffic, shore-land zoning, etc. The Spragues understood what that process was going to look like.”

Sprague said his family isn’t sure what would come next for the property, part of which is currently leased to a corn farmer, but that it would stay as it is for the foreseeable future.

“I’m just not in a position to be speculating,” he said. “We’re still digesting this.”

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

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