BAR HARBOR — A 13-lot residential subdivision in Salisbury Cove proposed by Joe Cough was approved by the Planning Board following a public hearing at its June 3 meeting.
The application has been in the works since late last year. Issues discussed in the review of the project included the speed limit and traffic on Ledgewood Road, from which the new subdivision road will be accessed, watershed and wildlife protection and nearby land that is within the legislative boundary of Acadia National Park.
Over the course of the project review, the plans had changed as to whether the subdivision road would connect to Route 3 or to Ledgewood. Neighbors expressed concerns about traffic and wildlife impact of the new road location.
“One of the factors that solidified our decision to purchase our home was the quiet nature of the road,” Ledgewood residents Autumn and Zach Soares wrote to the board. “There are currently only seven homes located on Ledgewood and it has very minimal vehicle traffic. There are days our children spend hours on end riding their bikes up and down the road without encountering a single car. Adding a 13-lot subdivision road off Ledgewood has the potential to increase the traffic by at least 200 percent.”
Because it’s not posted, the speed limit is currently 45 mph, which is too fast for safety. The existing driveway at the property does not meet visibility standards for that speed limit, Cough said.
The board discussed the process for the town to petition the state Department of Transportation to change the limit.
The speed limit does need to be reduced anyway, but neighbor Dirk Erlandson said they didn’t want the developer “to use that as sort of a selling point to have the road go off Ledgewood.”
From a planning perspective, Planning Director Michele Gagnon said, having the road go off Ledgewood is a benefit, since it avoids new curb cuts in Route 3. Each time one of those is added, she said, it reduces the “capacity in the system” of Route 3 as a travel corridor. That’s why planning principles dictate “concentrating traffic at existing curb cuts” whenever possible, she said.
A vernal pool near the new road also was a subject of debate. Project representative Perry Moore described a wildlife tunnel for amphibians that will be built into the road.
“It’s essentially a box culvert,” he said. “The top is open with a grate; it doesn’t need to be maintained. The idea is for “amphibians (to be able to) move up and down it without having to cross the road. It would be good to see more of these things next to vernal pools.”
Neighbor Robin Torbeck cited a University of Maine wetland ecologist who said the effectiveness of such tunnels is much debated in the field.
John Kelly, a management assistant and planner for Acadia National Park, also weighed in on environmental questions in his feedback for the board.
“All of the Northeast Creek estuary and associated wetlands are included in the legal boundary for Acadia National Park,” he said. “Estuaries in and around the park provide nursery, breeding and forage grounds for many species of fish and wildlife, as well as unique recreational opportunities for park visitors and local residents.
“These estuaries are threatened by potential contaminants from increasing residential development,” he continued. “Nutrient loading to estuarine systems is one of the park’s most important resource management challenges.”
Kelly and the applicants had debated whether they were required to note the legislative boundary of Acadia National Park on the plans. The land is not actually owned by the park, but the boundary was created by legislation in 1986 to designate land that may be acquired in the future for inclusion in the park. They agreed to include the presence of the boundary in an explanatory note on the plans, but not draw it on the plat; Kelly said that would be acceptable.
Construction of the subdivision is expected to proceed in phases, with a target completion of December 2022. If the timeline stretches longer, the applicant will be expected to return to the board for approval of a modification.