News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, June 15, 2017
Designs for ‘walkable’ Blue Hill previewed by selectmen
Grants will determine scope of project

Designing details

From left, selectmen Vaughn Leach and Ellen Best review designs for a more walkable Blue Hill as architect Sam Coplin provides details, on June 9.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

Selectmen were presented with a preview of designs for a more walkable/bikable Blue Hill on June 9 ahead of a Blue Hill Community Development public forum slated for Wednesday, June 14.

The nonprofit Blue Hill Community Development unveiled its ambitious plan in February to connect downtown and uptown streets through sidewalks and trails, and create a safer, more pedestrian-friendly South Street, using grants from Maine Department of Transportation and Department of Agriculture, along with private donations, which funded the design plans by CES, Inc.

With grant application deadlines looming, BHCD Chairman John Burns brought the designs required for the grant applications, and the architect and engineer behind them.

The MDOT grant can range up to $400,000, with a required $100,000 match, but can also be a lot less, and architect Sam Coplin, a consultant to CES, Inc., and engineer Travis Noyes presented four different projects, with the largest on South Street, one on lower Main Street, one on the Main-Union-Water streets intersection and one on Tenney Hill.

Any one of these “essentially bite-sized pieces” could be applied to the MDOT grant “but not all of them,” Coplin said. The cost of the entire project scope presented is over $700,000.

The town must submit the MDOT grant application, and Selectman Jim Schatz noted that the town would have the final decision on accepting any grant and its proposed use.

The South Street design calls for eight-foot wide sidewalks from NAPA to Tenney Hill on the north and six-foot sidewalks on the south side, 10 foot travel lanes, and four-foot shoulders, too narrow for street parking.

“This will create another High Street,” Richard Avery said, noting that while sidewalks run the length of Ellsworth’s High Street, stores are set back behind large parking lots. The Blue Hill Co-op’s design plans for its new South Street store show its café fronting the street, not a parking lot.

Selectman Ellen Best voiced concern that upgrading the South Street area will only serve to hasten its commercial development.

“The more we do to make it appealing, the more appealing it is,” she said.

The South Street project would cost about $500,000 while the plans for Tenney Hill, and Main Street would require significantly less funds.

“It’s hard to figure out which project or how much of any [is possible] before you know how much money you have,” Selectman Chairman Vaughn Leach said after the meeting.

And while the town may have the final decision, he said, “I would think the selectmen would work with the group organizing this, and public input.”