January 28, 2021

Racino traffic among issues at forum

BANGOR – Residents of the city’s west side said Tuesday that the swell of traffic brought in by a voter-approved racino at Bass Park is a burden that their neighborhood should not have to bear.

“I don’t care about the money it’s going to bring in; I’m concerned about the moral fiber,” Steve Leavitt of West Broadway said. “In some sense, Bangor doesn’t even belong to its residents anymore.”

A group of about 30 residents met at the Fairmount School on 13th Street for the second of four public forums hosted by the city’s planning board.

The meetings are a chance for residents to provide input as the city considers changes to its comprehensive plan.

Tuesday’s forum focused on issues in Bangor’s west side area, which, as outlined by city Planning Manager Kathrine Weber, includes most of Main Street all the way to the Hampden town line.

It also includes the streets west of the Kenduskeag Stream, including Hammond and Union streets.

Although many topics came up Tuesday, most filtered back to the racino, a business that many fear would bring an unwanted influx into their community and drastically change what some called “the residential character.”

Paul Chaiken of Royal Road said motorists already use his street and Norway Road as a shortcut to Buck Street and the racino would only increase traffic.

“[Traffic on] Buck Street has always been a thorn in the side of neighborhoods,” Chaiken said. “You can’t filter these people in through residential areas.”

Some of his neighbors agreed.

“A lot of us consider this area the residential frontier,” Bill Shook of Hewey Street said. “But we’re becoming concerned about changes that could threaten the residential character.”

“Now that the racino is on the way, we wonder when the city will step in,” he added. “Will this development diminish property values? That is the question mark hanging over our heads.”

Carol Sherman of William Street said the racino might increase the pressure to bring in adult businesses and urged that the planning board “keep Bangor livable.”

Bangor’s comprehensive plan was adopted in 2000 and legally doesn’t need to be changed until 2010. However, planning board members have said they don’t want to wait that long to hear feedback from residents.

Some residents, though, wondered if their input would even matter.

“It’s my understanding that businesses do all the planning,” Crestmont Road resident Melissa Berky said. “How can we have continued representation of families?”

Though many questions were posed Tuesday night, planning board chairman Bob Guerrette stressed that it wasn’t the time or place for the board members to respond. He and his colleagues were simply there to listen.

The next public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, at the Down East School.

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