ROCKLAND – “They stole our nickname for the field,” said Susan Beebe.
Beebe is one of several Rockland residents protesting a proposed subdivision at 185 Talbot Avenue that is spearheaded by Midcoast Habitat for Humanity.
Deemed wetland by many, the acreage has remained a stomping ground for wild animals. Along with an assortment of large and small critters, the image of a bobcat was once captured on a neighbor’s webcam. Fireflies also inhabit the space, and have now become the symbol used by local protesters.
On Tuesday, Dec. 28, neighbors and city officials trudged into the same field – a field now approved as a Contract Zone by City Council. Those officials included code enforcement, Public Services, and two city council members. They were not there to inspect the wildlife, though far off among the western border a couple of turkeys ran through the shrubbery. Instead, the entourage walked the grounds from the viewpoint of a proposed future subdivision.
In order to enter the current makeshift driveway, people walked between a couple of protesters on one side displaying a protest logo – a painting of the field by Jonathan Frost with the words Save Firefly Field – and a professional subdivision sign that uses the word firefly in its project promotion.
Fireflies, according to protester Catherine Ledner, indicates an ecosystem that is functioning well. Ledner says the proposed subdivision, which is to include three small houses on slabs plus a duplex, and the City’s first handicap accessible sidewalk, is a horrible idea.
For different reasons, other Rockland residents believe that the acreage is considered wetlands.
Landmark Surveyors engineer Mike Sabatini said, however, that the ground on and around the proposed structures is not wetlands, although he identified other patches of ground on the property that are. Several residents cited the October 31, 2021 rainstorm that swamped a portion of the field, as well as pushed the waters of Lindsey Brook beyond its confines and into backyards and basements down the hill.
“That’s my basement that flooded. That’s my backyard that flooded.”
Standing at one back corner of the lot, neighbors stood at the top of a 3 by 1 slope gradient, pointing out their rooflines, their kitchen windows, their fears regarding the presumed impervious pavement that could, according to them, increase Rockland’s flooding problems.
Sabatini said otherwise. If the rest of the properties in the Lindsey Brook watershed used the same techniques as is proposed for this project, the flooding would be lessened, not increased, he said. Sabatini’s blueprint calls for rain gardens, soil filters, drains, retention ponds, and coarse surfaces that will absorb the water (reportedly also used at the Knox Regional Airport).
“I was very conservative in looking at these numbers,” said Sabatini.
He told the crowd that he’s been closely assessing the 100-year storm plans, which are updated frequently. The proposed stormwater management system should keep up with the storms that have been seen in recent years, if not worse storms, he said.
At another rear corner, plans call for adding evergreen shrubbery to hide a neighbor’s backyard, which, according to Sabatini, has an extended setback well within the Habitat property line in order to provide the private backyard with a little extra space.
Still, resentments linger for the protesters.
Thirty years ago, a neighbor tried to purchase the land, but was told they couldn’t build on it because it was wetland. The property was then sold to a developer who eventually bowed out and resold the land, according to Ledner.
The next Talbot Avenue proposed subdivision meeting with the Planning Board is temporarily scheduled for Jan. 18, 2022. However, this is contingent on the engineering report being finalized by that time.
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org