Redesigning the Twilight Zone

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“You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone.”
Rod Serling, television producer

Last week the Windham town councilors during a workshop discussed the 21st Century Downtown Plan for the North Windham business district. Unfortunately, I can only conclude it’s just another plan emanating from town hall that someone would love to shove down our throats. Some of it seems plausible but other parts are pipe dreams.

I will start by describing the town where I grew up. It doesn’t matter where, but the when does, having been hatched in 1948. Main Street was just about the only place with businesses, large elm trees had branches overhanging the street and the definition of a chain store was if one family owned more than one business. With the exception of a couple of diners (just like the old Miss Portland Diner) and an American Motors dealership (think Nash Rambler), most buildings were one or two stories and family-owned forever. We had two family-owned grocery stores that were small and basically only contained the necessities because of the lack of space. Located above these businesses were usually only one or two apartments and even the only local bar on Main Street had an apartment above it.

I guess I could best describe it as an old-fashioned New England village because it was quaint, quiet and far from ready for the modern retail trends to come. Then those modern shopping ideas came to town and literally kicked the hell out of Main Street. For a lack of a better term, the shopping mall stomped into town with a fury that many never saw coming, kind of like North Windham I have to guess. I had actually gone into the military when most of this began, but the modernizations witnessed, like buildings with flat roofs and many glass windows were an amazing site to behold.

Now I see the reversal of all of that scenario being proposed for the North Windham District under the town’s 21st Century Downtown Plan.

Please don’t get me wrong, not all of that planning should go to waste and never be implemented. However, having stated that, it appears to me that there are many added costs to implementing this plan that many small businesses could not afford. The cost has to be immense and as usual we have the cast of characters, from the top down, that couldn’t care less as to what the tax burden would be on all property owners in Windham. I believe in the idea that if they want it, they should pay for it.

Windham’s lack of foresight in the past will not be corrected by a lack of hindsight in the future. Yes, the North Windham Business District looks like crap but who allowed it to be built that way in the first place? I see no way that it can be replaced by the proposed plan presented to the town councilors on Tuesday, 18 April. Someone is going to have to pay for all of the restructuring of that business district and it better not be the owners of residential properties of our town. Neither should it be forced upon business owners either, especially small business owners that are already being tortured with so many government burdens.

Then there are those who believe commercial growth will lower residential property taxes. It hasn’t happened in Windham and places like South Portland. Quite frankly it is high time to end those fairy tales. What’s even worse is that Route 302 goes through North Windham. That’s definitely the fly in the ointment. Somehow no one seems to remember that new construction in North Windham should have ceased if the ground water became contaminated. I suppose that will lead the way for another proposed sewer project.

Lane Hiltunen of Windham wonders if Windham will apply for grants to construct a sewer system. Norridgewock just received $5 million in grants and loans for wastewater improvements.