2015-04-17 / Letters

Sawyer Street resident concerned

To the editor:

I am writing as a concerned resident of Sawyer Street in South Portland, in relation to the Martin’s Point proposal for the Hamlin School property. We just purchased our home this fall. We purchased this home for the location, the proximity to green space, the slow-paced community feel, and the fact that it was located near only Residential A zoning (meaning there were no large commercial buildings nearby, and there wouldn’t be any in the future).

Martin’s Point’s proposal for the Hamlin School property includes putting in a 15,000-square-foot commercial building where there is now a 9,000 square foot city building, paving over the existing community gardens, fields, basketball court and playground area and putting in an 85- car parking lot (the proposed entrance for the parking lot would be directly across the street from our house). The current proposal does offer to maintain the gardens but it moves them to the shadiest portion of the land, which is also downhill, and therefore subject to storm runoff from the parking lot.

Our concerns are many. They include a loss of community green space, increased traffic (there would be cars coming and going every 15 minutes for appointments, until 7:30 p.m.), light pollution from the parking lot, storm runoff (both into Trout Brook and our basement), lowered property value of our newly purchased home and a sudden shift from the current slow-paced neighborhood feel to one with commercial buildings and commercial traffic. For this reason we are also highly concerned with the rezoning from Residential A to Commercial – at what point does this trend stop? Merely maintaining the gardens on the property, no matter their location, does not allay any of these concerns.

As a city we need to welcome industry but we also need places where people want to live. People move to South Portland, and stay here, because of the residential and neighborhood feeling, and because of the access to beaches, green space, and trails. As a neighborhood we welcome growth that is in line with the mom and pop shops we already have at the intersection of Sawyer and Ocean Streets. As a city, we need to have a comprehensive and intelligent plan, so that we define where and how we want growth, and so that what we value as a community is reflected in our architecture and infrastructure. This is how we will maintain the health of our citizens, our waterways, and our economy. If we rezone residential areas at the whims of businesses, we run the risk of not considering our priorities as a community, and losing much of what we value in South Portland.

The plot of land in question is not a brownfield or some weedy overgrown blight. It is a beautiful piece of land that is loved, highly valued, and well used by the entire neighborhood. (Even in the snow I saw ski tracks – before it was three feet deep at least.) I know that Martin’s Point is a good business that is invested in community health and wellness. It surprises me that it is within Martin’s Point’s value system to overtake a piece of land that plays a major part in the health and happiness (and therefore wellness) of our community. I encourage Martin’s Point and the city to look for more appropriate locations for the Martin’s Point expansion. South Portland has many existing locations that are already set up for large amounts of parking and heavy traffic, and are already commercially zoned and in need of business. As a city, let’s plan and execute our development based on the priorities and needs of our entire community. This is how we will create comprehensive and sustainable growth and wellness, for all of South Portland.

Lindsay deCsipkes
South Portland

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