November 14, 2018
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York is building a road to give tourists direct access to the beach. Now what will the town do with the land around it?

Rich Beachesne | The York Weekly
Rich Beachesne | The York Weekly
Construction crews continue to work on the new York Beach connector road, just off Route 1 near York's Wild Kingdom.

YORK, Maine — When selectmen meet next week, they will discuss next steps in developing the property surrounding Short Sands Road, as the new connector road from Route 1 to the beach nears its final stages.

It will likely not be until next spring, however, before the road — which aims to provide tourists with a direct route to the popular beach destination without clogging up other town roads — is completed and opened.

The Maine Department of Transportation earlier this summer agreed to let the town complete the intersection work at Route 1, a critical step in the timely completion of the road. The intersection work, to include a stoplight, is a federally funded project and typically would be undertaken by DOT. But the state agency has agreed to let York public works administer the work, Director Dean Lessard said.

Meanwhile, work on the road is moving apace. The sidewalks are in, and the base pavement on the road from Ridge Road to nearly Route 1 is complete, as any passerby can notice on either end of the project, with the finish surface to be done after Labor Day.

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Contractor RJ Grondin and Sons’ work has to date come in $100,000 under the $2.6 million contract, which will allow the workers to continue to pave the road to within 100 feet of Route 1. Initially, work was to stop about 500 feet from the end.

The Route 1 intersection work is a separate project, funded with 80 percent federal funds, 10 percent state funds and 10 percent local funds. Selectmen recently approved spending about $36,000 to engage Ransom Consulting, the town’s contract engineering firm, to design the intersection, as well as administer and inspect the construction. They will also be surveying the area, to ensure all work is within the public right of way. About $630,000 remains in that account to actually complete the work.

This project is not without its challenges, said Town Manager Steve Burns. Chief among them is a worldwide backlog on streetlight components of at least six months, he said. The town couldn’t hire Ransom until DOT signed off, and Ransom still has to design the streetlight system before an order can be placed, he said.

“The key thing is that backlog on traffic signals. Could it be the steel embargo? Tariffs? It could well be. Who knows?” Burns said. “I just know it’s going to take a lot of time to get that stuff here.”

Meanwhile, the selectmen’s focus will soon shift to what to do with the 40-acre, town-owned property surrounding the road, a portion of which was to be initially used to build a police station. According to Burns, at their Sept. 10 meeting, selectmen are expected to discuss hiring an economic development consultant “to look at potential uses of that property.”

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The land is in the town’s green enterprise overlay district, which “is really the critical document,” Burns said. “It’s very clear: Enhance recreation and natural resources by day, and culture and entertainment by night. So it doesn’t seem to me, for instance, that a gas station fits into that.”

The overlay district was championed by former selectman Torbert Macdonald, who has said he could see some sort of hotel/college hospitality program there where students could learn the trade firsthand, for instance.

The consultant will examine the allowable uses in the overlay district, as well as the comprehensive plan and the zoning ordinances “and tell us what we need to be thinking about. What do we do? What is allowed?” Although the Ridge Road end of the property has been mentioned as the site of a proposed multi-generational community center, Burns said the current board has been cool to that suggestion.

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