Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 7, 2014
Castine Main Street design plans still under fire
Selectmen shut down meeting
Castine resident and residential designer Ted Lameyer is leading a drive to re-work a proposed Main Street design. He spoke at a August 3 selectmen’s meeting.
by Anne Berleant
When voters approved about $6 million at the May town meeting for much-needed infrastructure improvements on downtown streets, part of the project was a redesign of Main Street, a sticky process that has already delayed the project’s start-date for over a year. The near-unanimous vote indicated to selectmen that the public approved design plans presented at an April hearing. In fact, there were no questions raised at town meeting, despite design team members Paul Brody of WBRC and Mandy Olver of Olver Associates standing by to field them.
However, at an August 4 selectmen’s meeting, nearly 60 residents vied for recognition to speak, all but a few speaking against certain aspects of the plan. Selectmen would not recognize every resident’s request to address them and shut the meeting down at 5:30 p.m., after about 45 minutes of public comments. Chairman David Unger asked that comments be submitted to Town Manager Jimmy Goodson.
“This is the most important street in America,” said John Gardner. “It’s our street. You can’t let it go.”
So, what happened between town meeting and now?
A slight change in plans
“Since the last time the town met to discuss Main Street and gave affirmation of the plan, it has changed,” David Schoonover said.
The only change, Selectman Gus Basile said, was widening the street by the church, at its request, to accommodate parking needs.
At issue is the widening of Main Street to 36 feet curb-to-curb from the Trinitarian Church down through the intersection of Court Street and past the post office.
“You’re saying the church is more important than all the people on Main Street,” said Del Davis, a neighbor to the church.
The 36-foot street widths from the church through the Court and Main streets intersection are shown in the April 22 schematic submitted by WBRC and posted on the town website (castine.me.us). Sidewalk and grass buffers in front of the church add four feet.
An updated WBRC plan dated June 14, 2014 shows added vertical granite curbing on the east side of Main Street above the Court Street intersection and a 90-foot retaining wall below, along the corner property owned by the Aulds.
The initial design was based on results of a taxpayer survey of which the top three responses were safety, historic preservation and traffic calming/pedestrian experience.
At the selectmen’s request, Ted Lameyer joined the WBRC design team after he proposed an alternative design in July 2013 favored by residents over one by Olver Associates and approved by selectmen. Lameyer no longer works for WBRC, and said he was asked by Brody to not put forth opinions that differed from the presented plan at the April public hearing.
No design approval by town
“Everything [except by the church] is what the people voted on at town meeting,” Basile said but many disagreed.
“The design has not been voted on,” said Lameyer. Others pointed out that the vote was to fund the project, not approve the design. However, by municipal law, the selectmen “are the ones who have the ability to approve the project,” said financial officer Karen Motycka.
Selectmen favor the 36-foot street width based on the recommendation of WBRC and Diane Morabito of traffic engineering firm Maine Transportation Resources.
Morabito used AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) standards, traffic volumes and safety concerns, for her recommendation, she wrote to Goodson on July 30.
In a letter sent by Brody to Goodson on July 28 as part of an email thread between several interested parties he wrote:
“[ Maine Traffic Solutions] is not making recommendation based on what fits , they are making recommendation on what is appropriate. I caution [Lameyer] when misrepresenting the work of others with professional background and licensure in their field of practice.”
Lameyer’s plan proposes a 34-foot width through the intersection at Court Street and using sloped rather than vertical curbing—both of which Brody does not recommend—and no retaining wall.
“A street has to be 36 feet,” said Selectman Peter Vogell, while Basile held that WBRC would not “sign off” on plans unless the intersection width was 36 feet.
Lameyer said that WBRC would sign off on whatever the selectmen wanted. Brody did not reach Penobscot Bay Press for clarification on WBRC’s position by press time.
“What we are all concerned about is appearance,” said Bob Scott. “We don’t want the opinion of an engineer to determine what the town looks like. We want the opinion of [Lameyer]. The will of the town is to have it preserved.”
Or, as Richard Blystone asked, to loud applause, “Since we on Main Street are absolutely thoroughly against this plan, who’s in favor of it?”