WESTBROOK — Residents living near Idexx Laboratories are concerned about how the company’s proposed expansion will negatively impact traffic in the neighborhood.
Idexx representatives discussed the company’s proposed 135,000-square-foot expansion at a neighborhood meeting Monday night at the Westbrook Community Center. The project is expected to increase traffic and eliminate some wetlands at the Eisenhower Drive property.
The multilevel expansion is planned for the existing Synergy Center, which houses administrative, sales, marketing and other departments. The addition, being called Synergy East, would be built on an existing parking lot. An expected 800 new parking spots would be created as part of the expansion to accommodate new employees and replace the existing parking lot.
Construction could start in the spring if all permits and plans are approved, according to Denise Cameron, a principal and project manager with Woodard and Curran. The expansion is expected to take 18 months to complete.
Idexx, which produces veterinary diagnostic testing equipment, software and other products, employs about 2,500 people in Westbrook. The expansion would allow for up to 600 new positions to be created. For residents living near Idexx, more employees means more traffic.
According to Cameron, the new employees would add to traffic by 250 trips per hour during peak times. Many of the two dozen residents at the meeting said that worries them.
“We’re concerned about more traffic,” said Carlton Meserve of Saco Street. “It’s pretty fierce right now.”
Meserve said he’s lived in his home for 60 years now and has seen traffic continue to increase in the neighborhood over the years. He said Idexx has been a great neighbor, but that cars often speed through the area and he often comes close to being rear-ended when turning into his driveway.
Dana Fortier, Idexx’s associate director of global facilities and worldwide strategies, said the company encourages carpooling to cut down on traffic. The company is also looking to collaborate with the city and the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust to increase trail connectivity to the Idexx campus.
Residents said they were encouraged by what they heard at the meeting, but are still worried about the additional traffic that’s expected. People said they were worried that traffic lights may need to be installed and that it would back traffic up even more.
“If they put a light at Eisenhower (Drive) and Saco (Street) we’ll probably never get out of our driveway,” resident Joanne Reece said.
Cameron said Idexx is very aware of residents’ concerns, which will be kept in mind as the project moves forward. She said the project still needs to go through the traffic movement permit process with the Maine Department of Transportation. Some residents said they sent a certified letter to the DOT requesting a public hearing on a traffic study of the area.
State Sen. Cathy Breen, who represents part of Westbrook, was present at the meeting and offered to help connect residents with state agencies.
Aside from traffic, another impact of the headquarters expansion would be the elimination of some nearby wetlands. Cameron said the affected area is not considered “high-value wetlands,” and that Idexx would pay a “sizable” compensation fee to fund the creation of new wetlands elsewhere. She said the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers still need to approve this plan.
The proposed expansion is scheduled to go before the Planning Board for a workshop on Feb. 6 with a public hearing to follow in March. According to Cameron, Monday’s meeting was required by the DEP and the Planning Board.
Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.
Idexx Laboratories is proposing a 135,000-square-foot expansion of its Westbrook headquarters, as shown in this early concept rendering.
The expansion, as shown in a site plan, would take 18 months to complete with construction expected to start this spring.