Focussed Discussion #3: Managing the Brunswick Ave. Corridor

The Comprehensive Plan Committee and the Heart & Soul Trustees hosted a focused discussion on May 2nd to solicit ideas for what the community and City can do to manage the use, growth, and development in the Brunswick Ave. corridor from the Cobbossee Stream to the Interstate. The discussion was held at the Laura E. Richards School and was attended by approximately 45 people, many of whom have not been previously active in the H&S process. The event opened with brief overviews of the purpose of the focused discussion and the H&S process including the draft Community Vision. This was followed by a short presentation on possible issues and the City’s current zoning requirements in the corridor as well as the current uses and lot sizes along Brunswick Ave, and in the adjacent neighborhoods. Participants were then asked to share their ideas for what the City and community can do to make the Brunswick Ave. corridor better. People’s ideas and comments were recorded on a flip chart and are transcribed below:

May 2, 2013
  • Reduce the speed that vehicles travel – they go too fast.  Enforce the speed limit
  • The “Welcome to Gardiner” sign is located 4.5 miles from the Interstate
  • Need to re-think and redesign the entire street. Currently it is designed for manufacturing – a very wide street that is almost a continuation of the Interstate.  Should be more of a street rather than a highway:
    • establish a buffer zone on both sides of the street to narrow the roadway
    • create a pedestrian way (not necessarily a sidewalk) on one side of the street
    • make a bikeway on the other side of the street
  • The street has two names, Route 201 and Brunswick Ave. reflecting its two purposes and dual personality.  It needs to be both.  Need to decide how the corridor is best utilized.  What is the highest and best use (later clarified to be the highest and best “community” use not just economic/real estate use).  Important that this may change along the different segments
  • Used to be elm trees along Brunswick Ave. – need to re-establish trees along the length of the street
  • There should be a clearly marked bike path
  • As you get closer to the Interstate, it is not a good area for residential use.  In this area should allow homes to be reused for nonresidential uses such as offices
  • The promise of natural gas may reduce the heating costs for older homes
  • Need to allow alternative use of large, older homes
  • Should have a program to help retrofit the heating in older homes – need both legislation and grants
  • Allow creative reuse of large, older homes – noise from trucks and jake brakes makes it undesirable for residential use.  Should provide financial help to property owners to maintain the outside of homes
  • Problem with big buildings on small lots – means that any use needs to require little parking
  • Need to recognize that the corridor is two different areas – inner Brunswick Ave and the outer portion
  • Traffic noise is a huge problem – allow other uses but require that the “home” appearance of the property has to be maintained
  • Gardiner is a powerful “arts and crafts” town – need to accommodate things like Internet businesses with cable infrastructure
  • Actually Brunswick Ave is maybe 5 different segments each with its own character – need to decide what the character of each segment should be with a unifying thread along the entire corridor:
    • Road design
    • Regulation of landscaping and driveways
  • The zoning and regulations need to be flexible
  • Brunswick Ave needs to be the introduction to Gardiner and the downtown – should be attractive
  • The pace of change is faster – the cost of transportation is changing/increasing.  Makes it hard to plan for the future.  Trends will encourage people to move back into the city.  Need flexibility in regulations in both directions
  • Also need to consider demographics of families when thinking about the large, older homes
  • Maybe there is an opportunity for senior co-op living – should talk with Beth Anderson(?)
  • Need to allow the potential for people to work at home – evolving technology – makes it hard to plan for
  • Gardiner – is a beautiful place
  • The City has just reconstituted the Housing Committee and they will be looking at these things
  • It doesn’t matter what you use the older buildings for, you still have to pay to heat them:
    • Need program to insulate and weatherize older homes
    • Participate in PACE loan program
  • Consider transitional zoning in mixed-use areas
  • Re-consider the proposal to establish a business-professional zone from the Common to the Amory area:
    • Limit hours of operation
    • Restrict late or early hours
    • No large delivery trucks
    • Design standards to retain the residential character of this area
  • In the outer portion of the corridor, have standards that require buildings to look more residential in character
  • Don’t allow another development like the car wash – problems with noise and the lighting
  • Think of the corridor as a string of “communities” each with a place for people to get together
  • Need to recognize interconnectivity of actions – consider issues of drainage and stormwater management
  • Have older grades at Laura E. Richards School so children from the neighborhood can walk to school
  • Need places for younger families to build a new home in Gardiner – many don’t want an old house.  Should provide for the extension of the infrastructure including natural gas
  • Should have lower property taxes for older homes (Note: At the end of the meeting Scott Morelli said that the state requires a single tax rate)
  • Town needs to be more friendly in dealing with property owners looking for information – should have pamphlets and informational material available to explain the rules and the procedures
  • Brunswick Ave is an important “gateway” – the Comp Plan also needs to address the treatment of the other gateways – Route 24, Route 126, Maine Avenue
  • The City needs apartments for young people who don’t want to own – maybe this is an opportunity for the Cobbossee Corridor
  • There isn’t a clear vision for Brunswick Ave – should allow B&Bs, provide educational/informational resource for wetland areas, create walking trails
  • How do we incentivize young people to move here?
  • Need to provide education/assistance to property owners to keep older homes residential – conversion impacts the adjacent properties not just Brunswick Ave – when residential goes you lose the sense of neighborhood
  • Not hearing a good vision for Brunswick Ave
  • Gardiner is a tough sell because of the tax rate – do we want to attract business?  Can we attract both residential and business uses?