Sustainable development discussed at Scarborough town workshop

Warren Woods in Scarborough.  Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

SCARBOROUGH — On Oct. 19 the Scarborough Town Council held a workshop meeting to discuss a memo from the Conservation Commission and Sustainability Committee that detailed concerns about the effect of local construction development on the environment, particularly in relation to The Downs projects. The memo points out that “development on forested land, including forested wetlands, as is proposed in The Downs project diminishes the land’s ability to act as a carbon sink as well as buffer high precipitation events.”

Scarborough’s 2021 Comprehensive Plan includes a focus on sustainable development, though ordinance changes that would make the plan a reality are still in progress. The memo requests that if the council allows development in the meantime, projects should be made to align with sustainability methods. The memo calls for the inclusion of electrical charging infrastructure in construction of residential buildings. The memo also urges that residential buildings be created following Passivhaus standards. This is a set of design criteria that results in a very low energy usage building, thereby reducing its ecological footprint. The memo also recommends the conservation of contiguous land, and that The Downs conserve at least 30 percent of their property by 2030 to sustain Scarborough’s existing amount of open land in relation to its population.

The memo also points out that this conserved land should be adjacent to Warren Woods. The document states, “this area is contiguous with a high value Pitch Pine Bog within the larger Scottow Bog and contains rare plant species of special concern.”

As a workshop, the meeting was more discussion based than decision focused. The town council, members of the Sustainability Committee and Conservation Commission, and others discussed the content of the memo and strategies for sustainable development in Scarborough.

“We’ve talked about growth separately, we’ve talked about conservation separately, and they should really be going hand in hand in one conversation,” said Councilor Jon Anderson. “So how do we make sure this continues to be at the forefront as we talk about growth and as we talk about new development and just really make sure that this is intertwined in that conversation? … Basically, there’s paths and we need to work together to figure out what’s the best path to get the best outcome but also the path of least resistance that we’re going to be able to be successful to make progress on.”

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