June 23, 2018
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‘Having an interstate go right over you is going to be horrible’

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff
Updated:

BREWER, Maine — Several residents along the path of the Interstate 395/Route 9 connector say they feel trapped in homes that have lost value since the Maine Department of Transportation gained approval to build the 6-mile stretch of highway between Brewer and Eddington.

Others will lose their homes by eminent domain. The recently released DOT work plan for the next three years includes $7.25 million to purchase the land needed for the project and finish surveying and design, according to DOT spokesman Ted Talbot.

“Who would want to buy it?” Stephanie Cossette asked of her small farm on Lambert Road. “They’ll figure out, ‘Oh, that road is going through there,’ and won’t want it. If we did ever sell it, it would be at a tremendous loss and then where would we be?”

Stephanie and Edwin Cossette live in a house they purchased three decades ago for its rural nature. The couple own five miniature horses that are “rescues” and a couple of dogs that, when let outside, are allowed to run free — for now.

“Right now, it’s wonderful,” Stephanie Cossette said. “It’s very quiet out here, peaceful. You can go for walks. We’re going to go from that to literally having not just a little road but a freaking interstate in our front yard.”

She said she’s also worried about her animals.

“I think it will be a disruption to them all through the construction and once it’s there,” Stephanie Cossette said. “Imagine the noise. Having an interstate go right over you is going to be horrible.”

The connector will extend I-395 where it ends at Wilson Street in Brewer and roughly follow the Brewer-Holden town line until entering Eddington and connecting with Route 9. The path of the highway goes underneath Eastern Avenue between Woodridge Road and Brian Drive. It will bridge over Eaton Brook, bridge over Lambert Road and will pass underneath Clewleyville Road and Levenseller Road before connecting to Route 9. Eastbound traffic on Route 9 will have a stop sign.

A highway bridge will be built in Cossette’s front yard so the connector can cross Lambert Road.

“We don’t want to move,” she said Thursday while giving treats to the horses she shows at the Tiny Hooves Miniature Horse Club in Hermon.

An estimated eight homes will be “displaced” and another 54 other properties in Brewer, Eddington and Holden will be affected in one way or another, according to the route’s concept plans.

Rights-of-way needed for the roadway will exceed 163 acres, with properties along the route losing between half an acre to 20.19 acres, with most averaging 2 and 4 acres, according to the plans.

The assessed value of those potentially displaced properties and residences range from approximately $50,000 to $340,000, with the majority between approximately $147,000 and $323,000.

The DOT has created a Land Owner’s Guide to the Acquisition Process that spells out how the department acquires property for projects by eminent domain and outlines how residents are compensated.

“Just compensation” is determined through the appraisal process, utilizing the principle of “fair market value,” the guide states.

Property adjacent to the project boundaries gets nothing, except for the “stigma of association,” John Huskins, who lives on Woodridge Road, said.

“I’ve been trying to sell my house for 18 months,” Huskins explained Thursday.

There has been interest in the four-bedroom Colonial that sits on 2.8 acres, but once buyers hear about the limited access highway that gained federal approval in June and should be open to vehicles in 2025, they walk away or have tried “low-ball” techniques.

“I had an offer. Basically, we had an agreed-upon price, which was slightly below the assessed value,” Huskins said.

Once the buyer heard of the connector, “they tried to get another $20,000 less” and the sale fell through.

He and others along the route say the stigma should be enough to reduce property values and, in turn, property taxes.

“I wish they would compense the people losing property values, not just the people they’re moving,” Stephanie Cossette said. “We don’t know if they are going to put up any noise barriers or anything. What we do know is that having an interstate go right over you is going to be horrible.”

Huskins added, “I think there should be an avenue for residents to demand new assessments based on market value changes caused by this project.”

The original concept designs for the route have only been modified slightly since they were first completed six years ago.

The alignment was shifted slightly to the east to avoid the multiunit buildings associated with Common Sense Housing, an assisted living facility on Lambert Street, an email forwarded from Talbot states.

Even people who know they are going to have to move still have questions. The home of Ken and Jo-Ann Arbo is across the street from Common Sense and the Cossettes and is within the path of the connector, which is designed to ease heavy truck traffic and improve safety on nearby routes 46 and 1A, and create a more direct link from the Canadian Maritimes to the U.S. highway system.

“I wanted to do an appraisal and they said, ‘Don’t bother,’” Jo-Ann Arbo recalled Wednesday of a DOT representative who met with the couple and their neighbors in July.

The DOT plans have the connector going under Clewleyville Road, near the Holden home of Ron Lenfest and the Eddington residence of Suzanne Farrar and Richard Bryant.

“This isn’t for us. It’s for the truckers coming from Canada,” said Lenfest, who grew up on the property where he lives in a different house that burned. “I say, [expletive] the truckers.”

Farrar said she still has questions about exactly where the route will go and how close it will be to the home where she lives, which sits on 5 acres.

“We’re not sure where it’s going,” she said.

Even so, Farrar added, “People have already lost value in their homes. I just don’t get why they are taking away our peace and quiet. There are deer in the field, wild animals. I would imagine they probably won’t be around” after the new highway is built.

Lenfest said he plans to put his house on the market, but doesn’t believe his chances of selling it are good.

“Who is going to want to listen to all that?” Lenfest said of the future truck noise from the limited-access two-lane highway. “I’ll have to sell it cheaper than it’s valued at. It’s Holden, and the taxes are high here.

“A lot of people are pissed off, but what are you going to do about it?” he added. “Nothing is going to change. It’s not going to help the outcome any. It is what it is.”

Stephanie Cossette also said she knows there is no way to fight the approved project.

“I’m disappointed, just as everyone else is in the area,” she said. “While they are not taking my house, the road will be going across the front of my property. We have five miniature horses, and we feel like we’re trapped. It’s not too easy for us to pick up and leave.”

 


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