News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 21, 2014
Main Street, Castine
Selectmen roll back select design changes, petition asks for town vote

by Anne Berleant

In response to citizen uproar over changes to a Main Street design presented last April, selectmen voted at their August 18 meeting to revise select changes.

“Based on a number of meetings and feedback…[we’ve come] to try and bring everyone to the same level of understanding,” said Town Manager Jimmy Goodson.

However, the 36-foot street width from above the Trinitarian Church on upper Main Street to the Castine Inn remains in the plan. Former design team member Ted Lameyer is circulating a petition asking that selectmen hold a town vote on the current design and an alternative he will present.

The redesign of Main Street was prompted by the second phase of a town infrastructure project for Main Street, Water Street, Stevens Street, Dyer Lane, Sea Street, and portions of Court Street and Perkins Street. The town voted in 2014 to fund the $4+ million project. Phase I, completed in 2011, reconstructed portions of Battle Avenue, Wadsworth Cove Road and Perkins Street at a cost of $2.5 million.

Goodson said that selectmen will move forward with the current design. “We’re trying to get a meeting with the architects and engineers,” he said in an August 19 phone call, with a goal of starting construction before the year’s end. “It’s a scheduling challenge,” he continued, because of the need to keep Main Street open and unencumbered during summer 2015 and the burying of power lines at the same time water and sewer lines are laid.

“It’s a lot of moving parts,” Goodson concluded.

A visit to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission

Goodson and Castine Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Kay Hightower showed the design plans to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission on August 7, and selectmen approved recommendations aimed at keeping the historic feel of the street.

The retaining wall at the 54 Main Street property located on the corner of Court Street has been cut from the design, and the sidewalk will end before the residence, with a crosswalk located to align with the post office. The sidewalk from 36 Main Street to just past 40 Main Street has been moved to align with the back of the planned curbing. The sidewalk along 56 Main Street was moved back to the curb, losing the necessity of removing a hedge which lies in the town right-of-way.

Selectmen also rescinded changes made to the April plan that provided additional parking on upper Main Street by the Trinitarian Church, keeping the curb-to-curb width above at 30 feet, with a sidewalk and grass buffer on both sides, and then narrowing to 28 feet at 85 Main Street.

Petitioning for a design vote

Lameyer first presented an alternative plan to the town last August, after a design by engineering firm Olver Associates drew citizen dismay. Selectmen then hired WBRC Architects/Engineers to create a new streetscape design, with Lameyer on the team, which was met with general approval at two public meetings, followed by a public hearing in April. Since that time, Lameyer’s contract with WBRC has ended.

Lameyer, and those who believe his design goals are best for the town, asks for a 34-foot street at its widest points, wants sidewalks to continue on the east side of Main Street to its intersection with Court Street, and opposes vertical granite curbs.

The discontinued sidewalk is “really inappropriate and makes it an incomplete street,” with a “loss of function and safety,” he said by telephone.

His petition asks selectmen to “call a meeting of the Town of Castine,” pursuant to M.R.S. 30-A, § 2522, for voters to decide “which plans or plan should be adopted.”

Lameyer collected nearly 20 signatures on August 18 from in front of the post office and was back the next day.

“For [selectmen] to say everyone was happy with the design [presented last April] is not true,” he said.

A Lameyer-influenced design

Lameyer speaks of “historical integrity” and a “pedestrian-friendly” downtown, and many of his ideas and objections are now part of the selectmen-approved design. Retaining walls planned for below the Pentagoet Inn and at the Castine Inn gardens are gone, diagonal parking on lower Main Street has been maintained, and the seven-foot sidewalk in front of the post office “has been saved by my involvement,” he said. The burying of power lines and planting of elm trees, also part of the current design plan, “I brought forward last summer.” He fought for the grass buffers between curbs and sidewalks that, for most of Main Street, are part of the design plan of today.

Goodson, who sat in on the early meetings with Olver Associates in early 2013, said, “From that point, [Lameyer’s] contribution has moved us from a purely engineer’s scheme. [His] influence has improved the scheme 180 degrees…He has contributed a lot to the process. He has not been ignored.”

When asked if the selectmen would consider a citizens’ petition at this point, Goodson said it “depends on what they’re asking the selectmen to do.”

The citizens attending the selectmen’s meeting on August 18 continued to express concern that widening Main Street would cause excessive speeding down the street.

“[The change to 36 feet] is not trivial,” said Betsy Foote.

Selectmen are holding to the 36-foot width based on the recommendation of WBRC and Diane Morabito of traffic engineering firm Maine Transportation Resources.

“After the project is done, you won’t be able to notice those two feet,” said Lynda MacArthur, a lone voice at the meeting in favor of the current design. “For the good of the town, this project has to go forward.”