Board dismisses Farmers’ Market green space petition

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

A petition signed by 86 people who wanted to keep the Farmers' Market green space as it is wasn't enough to convince Bridgton Selectmen to make any changes to the sidewalk design for Depot Street.

The petitioners were, however, able to save the large red maple tree that was slated for removal in the streetscape project — providing that the tree's root system doesn't get in the way of drainage work that has to be done prior to the road resurfacing.

The project's intent is to create an "esplanade" feel along the street from Renys to the Bridgton Community Center, with sidewalks on both sides of the street. In the wide green space separating the municipal parking lot from the street, designers proposed placing the sidewalk in the middle of the green space, interspersed with benches, to invite people to think of the green space as a destination.

Vendors who sell their wares at the Farmers' Market from late spring to fall would rather have the sidewalk run closer alongside the street so that setup of their spaces would be more convenient. Helen Ramsdell, one of the vendors, wrote on the petition that the green space does need drainage work and more loam.

Selectmen Bob McHatton said he understands that dividing the green space might be inconvenient for Farmers' Market vendors, "but they might not always be there."

Anne Krieg, Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development, said the center-sidewalk placement is needed to create the esplanade effect, and noted that "right now, (the green space) is a mud puddle." She said she didn't see why vendors couldn't set up on both sides of the sidewalk.

Speaking on behalf of petitioners, Lucia Terry said "the feeling was that green space is pretty small and pretty rare in this town," particularly green space that is flat. Splitting the space with a sidewalk would diminish that effect, she said.

"A four-foot sidewalk (beside the street) instead of a six-foot walkway might save the town some money as well," Terry said.

Depot Street Project Engineer Dustin Roma said at Milone & MacBroom, the engineering firm where he works, "We're very fond of green space" as well, but "having a real space where people can congregate," sitting at benches, requires placing the sidewalk in the middle. He said the sidewalk there would be eight-feet wide, with around 18 feet of green space on either side. There would still be enough green space on either side to allow vendors to set up their 10'-x-10' popup tents.

"It's a different feel, sitting on the edge of the road, versus sitting back" from the road, Roma said.

As the discussion continued, Selectman Chairman Bernie King said, "This whole design is not for the Farmers' Market."

Terry had more she wanted to say, but the board moved the question, voting to take no action on the petition.



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