Backers praise, doubters peck at Milo plan

Posted Jan. 27, 2009, at 9:31 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:03 a.m.

MILO, Maine — A schematic plan of the possible future appearance of Milo’s downtown drew both raves and criticism during a public hearing Monday night.

Noel Musson, a Civil Engineering Services Inc. land planner who was contracted to work with the town on a streetscape schematic plan, presented residents with the latest version of the downtown complete with “pocket” parks and an information kiosk.

The project’s emphasis is to make a connection between the riverfront and the downtown, Musson said.

“It’s a work in progress, and we’re going to keep moving forward,” Milo Town Manager Jeff Gahagan told the crowd.

Some local residents and businesses envision old-fashioned-type facades on the businesses similar to those shown on early postcards depicting Milo. That, along with attractive lighting, window boxes, awnings, angle parking and plenty of greenery, are meant to soften the entrance to the community and the impact of hard surfaces like the asphalt road, according to Ken Woodbury Jr. of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, who also is assisting the town in the redevelopment project.

Some residents spoke in favor of the plan to have greenery dot Main Street and outline the entire downtown and riverfront, while others were not so happy with it.

One resident, who said the plan eliminates too much parking for businesses, was told by Musson that too much parking would make the town look “empty.”

While resident Fred Trask called the plan “beautiful,” he said it was something a tourist community like Bar Harbor would have. He questioned its feasibility for Milo, since the town has a truck route through its downtown used by loggers hauling wood to mills throughout the state. He also suggested snow removal might be an issue with the design.

Others questioned the plan’s mapping of two smaller and four larger building lots where businesses were destroyed by fire last September. Some suggested that it’s unlikely any business will redevelop on the property.

“Heaven knows what’s going to happen later” as far as rebuilding is concerned, Woodbury said. The object of the plan is to make the downtown as nice looking as possible so there is an inducement for people to rebuild, he said.

Woodbury, who has been successful in getting the town grants to aid in the removal of the uninsured buildings and the purchase of some of the lots, is now working on a $150,000 grant to help the town move forward on the downtown redevelopment. Before that can be done, however, residents need to embrace a plan.

A work session on the plan will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, in the town hall. Another public hearing on the grant proposal will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 3 in the town hall. While only one public hearing is required for the grant, Woodbury wants to make sure there are no unresolved issues with the plan before the grant application is submitted.

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