Thursday, July 11, 2002

Oak Hill, Eight Corners and Payne Road put heads together

Published in the Current

Despite concerns that there would be a light turnout, 26 people attended the visioning meeting for the Oak Hill, Eight Corners and Payne Road neighborhoods July 9.

Frank O’Hara of Planning Decisions, the South Portland company conducting the visioning study, introduced the project, saying, “you’re here at an early step in a process that’s going to go on in the next nine months or so.”

The topics discussed at the neighborhood meetings will eventually form the basis for a new comprehensive plan for the town, in what O’Hara called “a bottom-up decision process.”

O’Hara began the group discussions by asking whether the Oak Hill, Eight Corners and Payne Road area was a single neighborhood or a group of smaller neighborhoods.

While the discussions revealed that residents tend to think of the region as many smaller areas, the definitions and sizes varied, from the Scottow Hill area down to individual developments.

Other sub-neighborhoods were the Bessey School area, Imperial Drive, Oak Hill, Green Acre, Sawyer Road and the schools, Evergreen, Juneberry Place, Commerce Drive, Green Needle, Aslan Drive and Eight Corners.

Resident Marjorie Rosenbaum asked if Eight Corners was really considered a neighborhood. “Is that where we want kids to walk dogs?” she asked. “I don’t see how we can call places ‘neighborhoods’ that have eight corners.”

Resident Harvey Warren said there is a school and a church at Eight Corners, and the site of the current store also used to be a church, he said. “It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in Scarborough,” he said, adding, “It’s a landmark name. It’s not a ‘residential area,’ so to speak.”

Meeting attendees were then asked to list natural and cultural areas they want preserved. Places listed were the Nonesuch River, the Scarborough Marsh, the conservation area between Sawyer Road and Scarborough Downs, the Eastern Road, the ponds off Haigis Parkway, Leighton’s Woods, Willowdale Golf Course, the elm tree at the corner of the Gorham Road and U.S. Route 1, and the Bessey School. Also on the list were the Portland Farms, Evergreen Farms, Flaherty Farm, a Native American stone calendar, the Libby family cemetery east of Route 114, a small cemetery on Arbor View Lane, Scarborough Downs, Beech Ridge Speedway, the town/school campus, churches, the Widow’s Walk, Hunnewell House, the stream behind the Mobil Mart in Oak Hill, the area that used to be the Port of Maine Airport and the old Danish Village.

Residents were asked to think about what their fears were for the future of the area. Reponses were over-development, loss of greenspace, zoning changes, mall sprawl, crowded schools, taxes, loss of character and special places, more and faster traffic and wider roads. There also was a fear of “Route 1 will look like Saugus,” strip malls, poor-quality businesses, no relationships between the town and developers, no buffers between business and residential land, casino gambling, noise pollution and hunting in residential areas.

Hopes for the future were senior housing, community center, performing arts center, a master plan for the Haigis Parkway, a leash law, narrow roads, a sidewalk on Gorham Road, architectural and design standards, a good office building on Haigis Parkway, sidewalks and trail links between neighborhoods. Residents also wanted neighborhood activities, no tractor-trailers on Route 114, mailboxes on the same side of the road as the house, crosswalks, more greenspace, the best school system in the state, a park in Oak Hill, seasonal town-wide cleanups, additional schools, a “facelift” of Route 1, regional planning, revamped zoning laws, diversion of traffic from Route 1 to the Maine Turnpike and a downtown-like town center.

“We can control what happens to us in the future,” said resident and developer Gavin Ruotolo, recommending building design standards.

Resident and developer Elliott Chamberlain recommended improving the partnership between the town and developers, to achieve town and development goals more effectively.

Because the idea of a “town center” came up in this and previous discussions, O’Hara asked the residents what their thoughts were on the subject, and what a town center would consist of.

“The term itself is an oxymoron,” Warren said.

“Scarborough is unique, having many small individual communities,” said school board member Carol Rancourt, suggesting that other nearby towns would be better homes for people who want a Main Street feel.

Resident Fred Kilfoil, owner of the Millbrook Motel, suggested making more than one town center, one in each neighborhood or section of town. He pointed out that if there is to be a single Main Street-type road, that is not Route 1. However, he said, there are “Main Street” roads in the neighborhoods.

Town Planner Joe Ziepniewski said that town parks were located in each neighborhood for reasons similar to Kilfoil’s. He also pointed out that while Black Point and Pine Point are a very short distance apart on a map, it’s a very long drive from one to the other.

Ruotolo recommended that the developers make small neighborhoods and leave to the town the task of connecting them together.

The discussion then moved to residents’ wishes for areas to be preserved throughout the whole town. Areas listed were the beaches, the fishing boat harbor at Pine Point, the Cliff Walk on Prouts Neck, the Libby Farm, the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge land, the site of the mastodon excavation, the Fuller Farm, the Nonesuch River and the shipwreck at Higgins Beach.

Residents also had hopes for the town as a whole, listing jobs in town, quality of employment, pedestrian-friendly streets, a guide to places of interest, use of the drive-in property as recreational space, public transportation, a town pool and recreation center, safer traffic, controlled and balanced growth and regional planning. They also wanted high-paying clean industries, good town services, good schools, connections between neighborhoods, having neighborhood gatherings or “mini-Summerfests,” a biotechnology research center, 90 percent recycling rate and a footbridge or ferry from Ferry Beach to Pine Point.

Chamberlain said the best part of this process is the fact that people sit down together and talk to each other, working out problems face to face.

The next visioning meeting was scheduled for July 11 for North Scarborough.

The remaining two neighborhood meetings in this series are Tuesday, July 16, at 7 p.m., at the Beech Ridge Farm, for the neighborhoods of West Scarborough and Broadturn Road; and Thursday, July 18, at 7 p.m., at the Blue Point School, for the neighborhoods of Pine Point and Blue Point. All meetings wrap up at 9 p.m.

Stephanie Cox, chair of the town’s Conservation Commission, said all Scarborough residents are welcome at all meetings, and that people who have missed their own neighborhood meetings should attend other gatherings.

There is also a web site chronicling the process so far and providing opportunities for comment. It can be found at