West Kennebunk residents brainstorm over development of more than 200 acres

Posted June 20, 2013, at 11 a.m.

KENNEBUNK, Maine — A handful of residents shared their thoughts on future development of West Kennebunk during a workshop for Sustain Southern Maine.

The regional planning project is studying nine communities in Southern Maine to determine what a sustainable community in the area might entail.

“The purpose is to try to discover how much growth and what kind of growth can be accommodated in a wide variety of areas that have been designated by the communities for growth,” said Evan Richert, who is working with Sustain Southern Maine. “The purpose is not to create a master plan for the communities. But we are trying to learn about the ability, the desires, the obstacles, the advantages of growth in these areas.”

According to its website, Sustain Southern Maine is a “regional partnership of organizations, communities and businesses working together to make our economy, environment and sense of community stronger.”

A handful of parcels in West Kennebunk are being explored, totaling well over 200 acres. The parcels are located on Thompson Road, just past the Dorothy Stevens Center. While homes are located on some of those parcels, another is used for agriculture and a large parcel is zoned as resource conservation land.

“The purpose today is to borrow a few parcels of land, which the owners have generously allowed us to experiment with, to learn about how development can proceed in a village area, in a rural village like West Kennebunk. For us, it’s a learning exercise and hopefully something useful that the property owners can walk away with,” Richert said.

Any ideas created by Sustain Southern Maine are simply proposals the town, property owners and developers may consider in the case of future development.

The town’s comprehensive plan recommends growth around its village areas, said Town Planner Judy Bernstein, including providing infrastructure like sidewalks, public sewer and water, and more. The Thompson Road area is limited, she said, because there is still no public sewer offered there.

“The West Kennebunk village area was the most recent growth area we decided we needed to expand,” she said. “We’re hoping the consulting crew can show us some really neat examples of what could be done if we had sewer in order to preserve some of the really valuable open space areas that we all know exist out here. It would be nice to see it incorporated into trails and farming and things like that, that could relate to any residential development.”

The residents present Monday broke down into two groups to brainstorm ideas of what they’d like to see happen.

The groups discussed two differing potential uses for the land, said Carol Morris, president of Morris Communications and executive director of SSM, which the group will now examine further and bring back to the community. One of the ideas put a great deal of emphasis on maintaining views of the land, she said, while the other recognized potential agricultural use.

“What we heard from the residents there, most all of them were there because they understand the area is going to grow and they are very interested in having a say in how it grows,” Morris said.

Sustain Southern Maine will bring ideas back to the Kennebunk community, likely in the fall.

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