Topsham selectmen OK master plan study for mall road

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TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen Dec. 3 unanimously approved spending $50,000 on a master transportation planning project for Topsham Fair Mall.

The panel had on Nov. 19 tabled the Planning Office’s request to seek consulting services for the project – geared toward maintaining the viability of the mall – in order to better understand how the work will be funded.

In its second take on the matter last week, the board discussed having a set of guidelines for utilizing economic reserve accounts, from which some of the funding will come, Planning Director Rod Melanson said Dec. 4.

“One of their feelings (about) utilizing the accounts is to have a more outlined process,” and a policy regarding how the board can authorize use of those funds, he explained.

The master plan initiative stems from projects approved along Topsham Fair Mall Road this fall. Town staff realized during the planning process that the town lacked a master planning effort on which to rely when new development with major impacts is introduced, Melanson said last month.

Approving two new site plans on the road in September required lengthy Planning Board discussion, as well as “some minor geometric modifications to the striping and intersection layout” at Woody’s Performance Center and Panera Bread, Melanson wrote in a Nov. 3 memo to the Board of Selectmen.

“This raises the question about the rest of TFMR, and what can be done to ensure ease of access, visual interest and attractiveness, and safety for all users of the road,” the planner explained.

The master plan would encompass the stretch of road from Route 196 to Winter Street.

The town plans to work with stakeholders – property owners and business tenants along the road, as well as community members – to develop a plan for the area to improve upon the existing conditions.

Issues to be addressed include safety – reducing vehicle speeds and traffic conflicts, and the security of pedestrians and bicyclists – as well as enhanced aesthetics, better planning to identify and facilitate the area’s current and future needs, and proactively implementing improvements, Melanson previously said.

Funding for the project is available through money rolled over from the prior fiscal year’s contracted services account, along with the economic reserve accounts, which allow for infrastructure planning expenses, according to Melanson.

Along with identifying stakeholders, the town plans to send out a request for proposals for a traffic engineer and landscape architect this winter, award a contract and develop a plan, adopt an amended Traffic Impact Fee Ordinance and carry out the improvements.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Thanks to approval last week by the Topsham Board of Selectmen, a master transportation planning project for Topsham Fair Mall should soon be underway.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.