News Feature

Castine
Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 24, 2014
Main Street residents angry over proposed ‘streetscape’ design
Lameyer addresses selectmen over changes to plan

by Anne Berleant

After more than two years of public meetings, an approved streetscape design citizens rebelled against, and a new design proposal that was met with general approval, the selectmen are once again faced with hard questions. This time, rather than 200 citizens, the outcry was limited to three homeowners particularly affected by a Main Street design that is in its final stages.

James Dillon and David and Sherry Auld questioned the wisdom of widening Main Street to 36 feet curb-to-curb, with sidewalks on both sides, beginning at the Trinitarian Church and down to Water Street. The Aulds, in particular, were upset. “Our property is going to be devastated by this plan,” said Sherry Auld, noting that two electrical transformers, one fire hydrant and a 90-foot retaining wall on her corner property are part of the design plans. “You’re cutting way back into our banking,” she said. “Our trees will probably not survive.” Regarding four large maple trees on Main Street, she advised that “once you tap into those roots, they’ll die.”

The increase in width will better accommodate fire trucks and ease of parking, said selectmen, noting that safety was the top concern of taxpayers who responded to the survey.

“There’s still an ongoing conversation over [street] width,” Town Manager Jimmy Goodson added.

The current design is a result of a collaboration between Olver Associates, WBRC Architects Engineers and residential design professional Ted Lameyer, and replaces one proposed in early 2013 by Olver Associates. Lameyer, who had proposed an alternative street plan, was then contracted by WBRC to work with them on the new design, at a cost to the town of $65,000. The process began with a detailed survey sent to taxpayers, where they rated what elements of the streetscape were most important. The top three responses were safety, historic preservation and traffic calming/pedestrian experience.

Dillon asked if Lameyer was still pleased with the design, and Goodson said he was. “I think Ted would say overall he is pleased with the direction the plans are taking,” Goodson said.

However, in a letter sent this week to Goodson and the board of selectmen after he reviewed the current plan, Lameyer stated, “Over the year, several events took place which have marginalized my positions towards historic scale and streetscape, and I am very concerned that the current plan no longer respects the wishes of our townspeople for a street design that respects the pedestrian nature of our town.”

He pointed to the increase in width of Main Street, stating, “There would be no good outcome to a 36-foot wide street.” The decision came out of a meeting at Olver Associates in March, he continued, that he was not invited to, “and I have voiced strong objection to this poor decision ever since.”

A design by WBRC, Olver Associates and Lameyer was shown to the public in February and April this year and voters approved spending over $6 million to improve the infrastructure and streetscape of downtown at town meeting in May. Construction, delayed for one year due to the design changes, is planned to begin early next year. Lameyer’s contract with WBRC has ended and he is not “an agent of the town,” said Selectman Gus Basile

“In a project of this magnitude,” it’s not possible to satisfy every property owner,” said Chairman David Unger. “I think we’re just going to have to go forward with our plan as best we can.”

The Main Street redesign is a result of improvement work needed on underground village sewer, water and drainage utilities, based on a plan completed by Olver Associates.

In other business, the tax rate for 2014-15 was set at 9.55 mills, up from 9.3 in 2013-14, to provide a cushion in case of tax abatements and for lower town revenue than budgeted. This will give the town an overlay of $60,000, lower than in past years, but enough, said Financial Officer Karen Motycka. In town appointments, Kathleen Eaton was named tree warden and Don Tenney a member of the tree committee. There is a vacant position on the historical preservation committee.

Upcoming meetings

Selectmen, Mondays, August 4 and 18,

4 p.m., Emerson Hall