Throngs of people packed the library meeting room Thursday night to voice their thoughts to the York Planning Board about a proposed 119-unit condominium complex on 106 acres in York Village.
Nearly all who spoke opposed the plan, citing increased traffic, safety concerns for children and pedestrians, potential wildlife impacts and density. But there were several who said they supported the owners’ right to develop their land – a concept that seemed to gain traction among some board members as well.
The trustees of the Mary McIntire Davis Trust presented a “sketch plan” of the proposal Thursday, to gather concerns and comments from the board before submitting a formal plan. But that formal plan is expected to be completed in the next several months, said the trustees’ engineer Thomas Greer of Portland, as the trustees look to move forward at a deliberate pace on the project.
Greer said beyond the Planning Board approval, the trustees are required to secure a Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit. And because the property is in the historic district, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission has told them they have to investigate several sites, including foundations of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century homes. As part of the work, there will be an archaeological dig in the next month or so.
Plans call for two entrances, one on York Street and one on Donica Road. And residents of both expressed serious reservations about the project. It is impossible today to turn left onto York Street, say those residents, a situation that will be exacerbated by 238 additional cars. Donica Road is a quiet neighborhood road, say those residents, that will be disrupted by traffic exiting there.
“That road is going to come out at a 90-degree corner” on Donica, said resident George Bell, who lives across the street from the proposed road, creating a dangerous situation. In addition, people living across the street “are going to be facing headlights coming into our houses all the time. It’s a nice neighborhood and it’s going to be a lot less safe.”
Sharon Decato of 47 Donica Road suggested the board require a traffic study specific to this plan, paying particular attention to mornings when children are going to school. She said the line of sight at Route 1 and Donica or Raydon Road is poor, and it’s impossible to turn left in any event. “Take your time. Ask the right questions and get the right studies before moving forward,” she said.
John Daley, director for manufacturing at Stonewall Kitchen, also spoke. The rear entrance of the company comes out on Raydon Road. He said the Maine Department of Transportation considers the area from York Street to Anthony’s Food Shop the most dangerous section of Route 1 from Kittery to Kennebunk. Adding more traffic to the Raydon Road/Route 1 intersection, he said, must be avoided. “We need the town’s assistance in ensuring this development doesn’t add to an already unsafe condition,” he said.
York Street residents said there is a high volume of traffic all the time there. “A lot would have to be done to convince me that this is safe,” said resident Nancy Albert.
But not all people opposed the plan.
Jack Johnson of 66 York St., said over the years the late Mary Davis gave more than 900 acres to the town to conserve. “I’m sure she said to her sons before she died, I’d like you to offer it to the town first. The Davis boys have done that and have waited four years for the town to make a decision. Everyone knew if the town didn’t buy it what would happen. Who are we to now stand here and say we want to tell you what to do with your land.”
That logic resonated with board member Gordon Eldridge, who said in general “I’m a firm believer that people should be able to develop their land” as they wish. Member Al Cotton said condominiums represent “the kind of housing York needs. We know York needs that. It’s a big step forward.”
Board Chair Amy Phalon, though, was less enthusiastic. She said for starters she wants a traffic study that is specific to this area and she said the proposed density “is too high for me to support.” Lew Stowe agreed, saying that in addition to condos there should be some single-family homes to reduce density.