400-acre ‘town center’ development eyed near Scarborough Downs

Posted Dec. 07, 2012, at 1:50 p.m.
An estimated 6,000 fans attended last summer's concert headlined by Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller at Scarborough Downs.
David Harry | The Forecaster
An estimated 6,000 fans attended last summer's concert headlined by Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller at Scarborough Downs.

SCARBOROUGH, Maine — It may be early spring before town councilors consider a new zoning concept for 400 acres of land owned by Scarborough Downs, but the process is out of the starting gate.

A Monday meeting at Town Hall hosted by Town Planner Dan Bacon and Long Range Planning Committee member Rick Shinay gave residents a glimpse of future land-use ideas for parcels between Route 1 and Payne Road. All the land is currently zoned as a Regional Business District, or B2.

Mark Eyerman, president of the Portland-based consulting firm Planning Decisions, also provided details of plans including rezoning land north of Sawyer Road and east of the harness track for residential use, and expanding mixed use on a section on both sides of Payne Road almost to the Nonesuch River.

The largest portion is land owned solely by Davric Maine Corp., which does business as Scarborough Downs and is headed by Sharon Terry.

Ed MacColl, the lawyer representing Terry, said zoning changes to allow residential and light industrial development would resemble plans rejected when a town referendum was defeated in 2008.

The key exception is the legalization of slot machines, which Terry sought to boost the economic fortunes at Scarborough Downs while a “town center”-style development was constructed in the woods surrounding the track.

The proposal to rezone the land by creating a new Crossroads Planned Development District would allow gambling in its current form in the zone, without expansion to wagering unrelated to horse racing.

In its current form, residential use of any kind is prohibited, but the new suggested zone would allow single- and two-family dwellings in planned communities, senior residential and long-term care facilities, retail businesses and restaurants without drive-through windows, and hotels and motels.

The land excluding the track and its operating area has been for sale for more than two years, listed by CBRE/The Boulos Co. in packages adding up to a nearly $12.2 million asking price. Town tax records show a current tax valuation at Scarborough Downs of $9.7 million on 485 acres.

Track owners sought to have slot machines added to boost revenues after Maine voters approved a 2004 referendum permitting slot machines at or near Bangor Raceway and Scarborough Downs.

After local voters rejected the 2008 development plan that would have allowed slot machines, Terry was courted by Biddeford officials to move the track to land near the Maine Turnpike and Route 111.

Biddeford voters twice approved allowing the track and slot machines, but the second vote came in a 2011 Maine referendum where voters in the rest of the state rejected slot machines in Biddeford and Washington County.

MacColl said new zoning for expanded property use would be welcomed.

“In terms of long-range thinking, it is fair and appropriate,” he said. He added Terry still wants and needs the revenue from slot machines.

“She loves having the track in Scarborough and wants to do whatever she can to save the

harness racing industry,” he said.

The parcels off Sawyer Road would become a Village Residential 4 District, to support development of a higher-density neighborhood with no more than four dwellings per acre, open spaces and communal gathering areas.

The proposed change on Payne Road to a General Business District, or B3 zone, would also allow some residential space in mixed-use properties, but would still limit individual projects to 30,000 square feet. Larger planned projects away from Maine Turnpike Exit 42 would be capped at 80,000 square feet.

If approved, the change would extend the current B3 zone from the Gateway Shoppes at Scarborough near Payne Road and Haigis Parkway, to the buffer zone protecting the Nonesuch River.

Input from Monday’s meeting largely centered around ensuring rezoning does not increase traffic on Sawyer Road between Routes 114 and Route 1 and preserves the wetlands approaching protected areas along the Nonesuch River. Bacon said the concerns will be reviewed as part of a committee meeting Friday at Town Hall.

The Long Range Planning Committee, comprised of former Planning Board member Susan Auglis, former Town Councilors Michael Wood and Sylvia Most, current Planning Board Chairman Allen Paul, Richard Shinay and David Merrill, has been working to review and update zoning throughout town. The current council liaison is Councilor Judith Roy.

Zoning changes are first brought to the Town Council for an initial reading. If passed by councilors, the changes are forwarded to the Planning Board for advice and input, then returned to councilors for a second vote.

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