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Proposed Tech Park 12-27-01
Technical Park plan upsets neighbors
by E.C. Shanor from the Advertiser Democrat
     NORWAY - Bret Doney, the area's economic development director, has a vision of Norway's future that at least some others have trouble seeing.
     Doney, president and chief executive of the Growth Council and Enterprise Maine told the Norway selectmen that his organization is considering the purchase of 158 acres of recently logged land on Roberts Road, overlooking Lake Pennessewassee.
     Roberts Road is the mostly unpaved connector between the Lake Road, Eddie Kahkonen and Pike's Hill Roads. It intersects with the Lake Road between Route 117 and the rest area on the Lake road. With your back to the lake it can best be described as "the big hill behind the rest area."
     The project would not be an industrial park, Doney said. What it will be doesn't exist in Maine yet. It's what he calls a technology park.
     "We're trying to create something that will bring jobs here. We can't do that if all we have to offer is the same as 1,000 other places offer," Doney said.
     The enterprises he is trying to attract are not the type of businesses that have chosen Maine in the past, but are in the market for the combination of environmental, human and technological resources that could be developed here. These are businesses that are not looking for industrial parks or conventional office parks. They don't want to wait for something to be built, either, they want to buy or lease a building that already exists.
     Doney then described his vision of an ecologically sensitive complex of buildings designed to fit into the landscape that provides state-of-the-art secure high-speed fiber optics and wireless technology links for new -age business and industry.
     "Our market research indicates there is going to be a demand for this kind of space, he said.
     "You mean like ITC,?" asked Selectman John Akin.
     "Well, yes, if you realize that technical support services are in the same industry as telephone sales. But there are a lot of others, too, like web designers, graphics businesses and consultants. There are jobs that don't even exist yet. We see a lot of potential for interplay with the Western Maine University and Technical College Center," Doney explained.
     The Norway Savings Bank Support Center and the CN Brown corporate headquarters are better examples of the type of industry he's considering, although they are still not quite what he foresees.
     "We're trying to create not just jobs, but good jobs. To do that we have to attract businesses that pay well, and this is the kind of space those industries say they are interested in."
    Technology developers have high expectations for environmental harmony, secure communications systems, reliable power supplies, accessibility to academic and technical resources, as well as recreational facilities, Doney continued.
     He emphasized that the businesses that the Oxford Hills hopes to attract to the technology park would not be in the market for a traditional industrial park setting, so the plans would avoid hinting at that.
     To develop such an elaborate program within cost constraints, Doney said he hoped that the planning board would be able to go along with a new concept in planning and approval process that has been successful elsewhere.
     Instead of approving each structure separately, approval would be sought for a general plan of construction materials, techniques and standards that all facilities built on the property would meet. New construction could start faster than if the entire process had to be worked through for each unit.
     But not everyone seems impressed with Doney's idea.
     Two potential abutters attended the meeting.
     "It's an emotional issue for me," said David Keniston.
     "This is an emotional issue for me, as well" said Bruce Cook. "When I sit on my deck, I'm going to have to look at it, and this doesn't thrill me."
     "That's going to be true no matter what happens," said Selectman John Akin. " As soon as that property was logged, you knew what was going to happen there. Sooner or later somebody's going to develop it," .
     Doney pointed out that only five acres on the 158-acre tract would be built upon, and that would not be all one building, but several.
     "There would be a large ecological buffer," Doney stressed, adding that there there would be as much concern for preserving the views for neighbors of the lot as for protecting the views from the lot.  The park will include such features as using non-reflective glass in windows, siding colors that harmonize with the surroundings, driveways and parking areas that are concealed from view by the terrain.
     Town Manager David Holt asked Cook to consider that an enterprise concerned with the things Doney described might be easier to deal with as a neighbor than a subdivision of 16 individually-owned houses.
     Cook remained dubious.
     "I'm also concerned about the impact on property values," he said. "And even though it's high-tech industries, there are still going to be tractor-trailer deliveries at all hours of the day and night, just for office supplies."
     Doney conceded that there would certainly be more business traffic than a residential neighborhood would attract, but less than one would find at most manufacturing facilities.
     Selectman Bill Damon recommended that Cook, Keniston and their neighbors get together soon and begin to get their concerns organized clearly and logically before the public hearings, which are certain to be held by the planning board and perhaps other government bodies.
     Akin reminded Doney that at such hearings the townspeople would want to know "what's in it for the town?"
     "That's a lot of people," Akin said. "How are they going to get there? What does that mean for traffic flow? Are we going to need to buy another fire truck? Those are the kinds of things I want to know."
     "Well, we would count on tax incentive financing (TIF), but not the kind that pays money to the business, Doney said. "I don't believe in them. I don't think they work."
      He pointed out that the project is still in the planning stage, although the pace of planning is rapid in order to meet the terms of a purchase-and-sale agreement with BBD Properties, a Penley family enterprise. The agreements calls for a May 9, 2002 closing date on the 158 acres.
     More information and opportunities for discussion will be aired in the months ahead, probably starting with the Norway Planning Board, which meets at the town hall at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday evenings of the month. Those interested in more information about the project can can call Enterprise Maine at 743-8830 or e-mail www.EnterpriseMaine.com. Those who want to learn more about public hearings can call the town office, 743-6651 for more information..