I’m writing in response to the story about the upcoming construction of Augusta Housing Authority apartments on Maple Street in Augusta (“Construction to begin on apartments,” Dec. 29).

I am one of several people who attended meetings in opposition to the plan last year held by the housing authority, city council, and the planning board. I stand by my comments against the apartment complex. I would like to remind Augusta residents/taxpayers why.
I still believe that Maple Street is too narrow for the traffic. This is going to cause an additional burden on residents who live on Willow and Maple streets. As it stands, Willow Street is used as a cut-through off Bangor Street, and a 29-unit complex is going to create more traffic on that street.

It is very difficult for two vehicles traveling in the opposite direction on Maple Street to pass at the same time, and that is without the humongous snowbanks that pile up during the winter. The mayor and members of the City Council who voted for this project seemed to have no interest in that issue.

I’ve heard Mayor Rollins and others argue that because Maple Street was once an entrance to the paper mill, it somehow makes it OK to bring the traffic back.

There was a lot of traffic in the years the paper mill was in its prime. The news flash is, however, that many residents who lived on Maple Street at the time did not like it and complained. But the paper mill provided several hundred jobs to area residents.

Furthermore, it’s my understanding from longtime Maple Street residents that the mill’s owners took extremely good care of the street in the winter. Since I moved on Maple Street in 2000, I have had to sand the street next to my driveway in order to get out after a storm. I never complained because I knew city workers were taking care of the main roads, as they should. But now that a new development is coming, it seems to me the city would take better care of Maple Street. The small hill heading to the development is deceiving and can be very difficult to climb after a storm.

As I told the Planning Board, I believe the city is acting irresponsibly by allowing a housing development in that location. Parents who move into the complex are not going to hold the hands of their 11-, 12-, and 13-year-old kids when they go outside. It’s human nature for children to explore places they shouldn’t, and I’m concerned that someone is going to get seriously hurt.

Again, the complex is next to the debris from the torn-down mill and close to the Kennebec River. I’ve walked that area on several occasions and cannot understand why the city would even consider allowing such a project.

Also, I believe the speed limit on Maple Street should be reduced to 20 mph with speed bumps placed in various spots along the street. It is very dark and the lighting is poor. This past Fourth of July, I watched vehicles zoom down the street to find a spot to watch the fireworks. I witnessed a young woman walking along the dark street with two small children (around ages 3 and 4) by her side, as one of them kept running off. Fortunately, a vehicle did not come along at that time. The city must take responsibility and make it safe for all.

The city is supposed to receive (if it hasn’t already) $200,000 or so in tax-increment financing money for allowing the project to go through. Augusta Housing has been given free rent to build on city property. When I asked City Manager William Bridgeo what the city would do with that money, he stated that it possibly would be spent on downtown or a number of other projects around town. He never once mentioned the mill site.

My answer to that is, absolutely not. That money must be earmarked for investing in the area by installing better lighting, speed bumps, and putting the remaining money aside to use towards opening an alternative entrance to the site.

For the last 20 years, Maple Street has been a neighborhood and not a mill entrance, and it has been a wonderful neighborhood to live in. The city is receiving money for allowing Augusta Housing Authority to develop a 29-unit complex on land that we, the taxpayers, are giving to them.

This is not what the East Side Planning Committee envisioned in 2011 when it met and talked about future use of the former mill site.

Joyce A. Grondin is a resident of Augusta.

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