STANDISH — Be on the lookout for a possible new scenic overlook along Route 35 in Standish.
The Standish Town Council approved a cooperative agreement on Tuesday, Nov. 14, between the town, Portland Water District and Maine Department of Transportation for a potential scenic overlook that would provide a place for people to park their cars and enjoy a view of Sebago Lake.
The overlook would be located at a high point of land across Route 35 from the lake, just up a hill from the water district’s Sebago Lake Ecology Center.
The council voted 7-0 in favor of the agreement.
Councilor Steven Nesbitt said that he is “very excited to see the scenic overlook coming to fruition.”
“I was involved with the beach project and working with the Portland Water District for a long time. I’m glad that we can continue our cooperation together to bring new projects forward,” Nesbitt said. “The timing is perfect for this because of Route 35 being reconstructed there. It comes together very well – I’m very excited about this.”
The turnout construction would be part of a larger DOT reconstruction project on Route 35. That project will also include the realignment of the road near the intersection of Routes 35 and 237 (also known as White Rock Road).
“It is a very good thing for the town of Standish,” said Councilor Isabel Higgins, noting that DOT was very receptive to recent suggestions from the town concerning the project. “It is an iconic view from that stretch of highway.”
Town Manager Gordy Billington said in an interview that construction on the project, which is still dependent on an additional long-term lease agreement between the town and the water district, could begin next spring.
“Sometime in 2018 I think we could start to enjoy the scenic overlook,” said Billington, who will be retiring soon. New Town Manager Kris Tucker starts work Dec. 4 and Billington will stay on through January to help with the transition.
Billington called the potential overlook a “great addition” to the town and a “beautiful spot.”
The DOT has set a 20-year life expectancy for the overlook, Billington said. A draft lease agreement provided by the water district would have the town lease the land for the overlook at $1 annually for 25 years, with the ability to renew for another 25 years.
The agreement approved by the Town Council last Tuesday stipulates that the turnout would be built on land owned by the water district, and that the townand DOT would share construction costs. The town would contribute just over $60,000 towards construction and erosion control.
Billington said the town initially appropriated $50,000 for the project, but those costs increased slightly after the town secured some tweaks to the project, including moving the turnout further away from the road to maximize its size and parking capacity.
“Our share will now be $60,000 – we can afford that. We have the budget for that,” he said.
The town would also be responsible for maintenance of the turnout.
“I think $60,000 is going to be money well spent,” said Leo Robichaud. “We have a jewel out there that people can now go up on an embankment and look and have a picnic and whatever, and enjoy the view of the White Mountains from Standish. I think it’s going to be a big plus to the town of Standish.”
While Portland Water District Public Relations Manager Michelle Clements acknowledged that the water district and town have not always seen eye to eye in the past, she said that things have improved.
“I think over the last few years, there’s been a real sense of collaboration,” Clements said, calling the relationship “very positive.”
In May, the town opened it’s long awaited beach on Sebago Lake as part of a 25-year lease agreement with the water district, which owns that land.
Clements said the water district has sent the proposed lease for the scenic overlook to Standish’s Portland Water District Steering Committee. “The ball is in their court as far as getting the lease back to us,” she said.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
The Standish Town Council signed off on a cooperative agreement for a scenic turnout on Portland Water District land along Route 35. The proposed turnout would provide a view of Sebago Lake.