One of seven Kingfield downtown enhancement projects conceived by a town-created committee five years ago has made its way onto the Town Meeting warrant, but not with the blessing of town officials.

Kingfield residents will vote on whether to earmark money to create a village green at the corner of Depot and Main streets, where there’s now a grassy empty lot. The green is one of seven projects the Village Enhancement Committee came up with in 2011 after it was formed to find ways to spend tax increment finance money.

The project is the only one of seven that the committee came up with to make it to a town meeting warrant.

“It’s really a positive thing for the town and it just needs a new fire under it to get it going,” downtown business owner Polly MacMichael said Wednesday. MacMichael spoke to selectmen at their meeting Monday in an unsuccessful attempt to convince them to change their minds after they voted last month to not recommend the warrant articles supporting the project.

The committee is requesting up to $450,000 in funding for the project, which would include parking, a community bulletin board, street lamps, benches and possibly a gazebo. The request is made up of two article questions, one asking for the release of $100,000 from the town’s TIF agreement with Poland Spring Water, which opened a bottling plant in Kingfield in 2009; and the second asking for the town to borrow up to $350,000 be paid back using TIF money.

The Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee voted in April against recommending the articles because they said the cost is too high.

“The town is not against a village green,” Selectman John Dill said in a phone interview Wednesday. “But for three to four hundred thousand dollars, that seemed like quite a bit of money.”

SEVEN PROJECTS

The Village Enhancement Committee was created by the Board of Selectmen in 2010 following the establishment of the Poland Spring TIF. The TIF includes a line item that mandates its funding be used for the enhancement of Kingfield’s downtown village. About $103,000 is in the TIF account, according to the town’s administrative assistant, Leanna Ross Targett.

When the committee was created, selectmen asked the committee to develop ways in which the TIF money could be spent that would help enhance and bolster downtown.

In November 2010, the committee held a public design workshop to gather ideas from residents about what they thought downtown needed. From the information collected at the workshop, the committee drafted a Concept Plan for Village Enhancement.

The plan was completed in early 2011 and consisted of seven projects, one of which was the village green. It’s the only one of the committee’s projects to make it onto a town meeting warrant.

Other projects developed in the plan were a proposal for calming traffic that would include new sidewalks and crosswalks and establishing landscaped gateways at the southern and northern entrances to the downtown area along Route 27; three parks; the establishment of walking loops that would guide visitors by the town’s historic sights and buildings; and developing the Knapp property into a community center, fitness center and public parking area.

Wright and Pierce Engineers has already drafted a plan for the village green and has estimated the project’s cost to be about $359,000, MacMichael said.

The estimate includes the cost of 10 parking spaces, storm drains, a fire hydrant, brick walkways, curbing, pavement painting, a retaining wall, lighting, benches, signs and the community bulletin board.

‘A WELCOME MAT’

While MacMichael didn’t change selectmen’s minds Monday, she thinks she was able to clear up an earlier misconception that the funding was solely for landscaping.

MacMichael said neighbors of the green space already have said they would provide an easement for town use. Abutters of the space include Skowhegan Savings Bank, Cindy Orcutt, and MacMichael and her husband, Rob, who own the restaurant Rolling Fatties, directly next to the proposed village green space. Orcutt, chairwoman of the Village Enhancement Committee, wasn’t available for comment Wednesday.

MacMichael is not an official member of the committee, but she said she has been passionate about the project because she believes it is a needed addition to Kingfield’s downtown, which many people travel through on Route 27 but may not always be drawn to stop.

“Any time you drive into a town and you see a green, it’s like a welcome mat,” MacMichael said. “Route 27 is filled with people wanting to get to Sugarloaf and (other) outdoor activities, and they’re just driving right through Kingfield.”

With the added parking and aesthetic draw, MacMichael thinks the green space would encourage people to stop and walk around.

She said the green space already is used for the area farmer’s market, but by formally establishing it as the village green, she envisions it being used for community concerts, meetings and possibly even local festivals.

By adding the 10 parking spaces along Depot Street, Targett said, the project also would recoup some of the spaces that will be lost when the Maine Department of Transportation begins its Route 27 paving and sidewalk project in 2018.

Dill agreed that Kingfield needs something to entice Route 27 travelers to stopping in the town. And while he didn’t disagree that a village green-type space might be that something, he said the cost is too high.

Voters will have the final say on the two articles at Town Meeting on June 4.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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