BOOTHBAY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Along with everything else on the Election Day ballot, voters in the town of Boothbay will settle e a local controversy over a roundabout.
The $3 million project is proposed for busy Route 27. And it appears to have divided the small town, largely because of the man who most wants to build it.
Developer Paul Coulombe was already controversial before this project came along. He has reportedly spent tens of millions of dollars already on his gold-course resort project that borders the Boothbay Town Common.
The roundabout would connect to the road around the Common and to the back entrance to the resort property. It would also connect to land where Coulombe plans to build a retail project. He said it is about improving traffic flow and safety on Route 27, the main highway to the Boothbay region.
Under a “business partnership” arrangement with the Maine Dept. of Transportation, Coulombe would pay $1 million of the $3.3 million cost of the project, and the DOT and the town would split the rest.
Opponents of the roundabout proposal say they don’t believe the safety claim, saying there is not a history of accidents at that location. They contend the project isn’t needed.
The town manager, however, said the MDOT has called the nearby intersection of Route 27 and Quarry Hill Road a “failed intersection.”
A previous roundabout proposal for that intersection was also rejected by voters two years ago. The new proposal is to build the roundabout a short distance away, and re-route Quarry Hill road to also connect to the roundabout.
Opponents said the expense to local taxpayers isn’t justified, but their major objection appears to be based on Coulombe himself and the large scale of his expansion in the center of the town.
“Part of it is his personality,” said Fred Kaplan, a leader of the No Roundabout group. “He’s pushy and aggressive.”
Kaplan also cited comments Coulombe made in a 2015 magazine article, which were critical of Boothbay and local residents. Kaplan said many local residents resent Coulombe’s free spending to get what he wants.
For his part, Coulombe said he wants safety for drivers and jobs for the town. He told NEWS CENTER the Boothbay area needs new jobs to keep young people here and help restore school populations. He also said opponents were just afraid of change, and by what he said is “misinformation and rumor” spread about him and the project.
“They don’t have a reason not to be in favor of it,” he said. ”No logical, sensible reason except for no change. Well, that’s not a good reason in my book. I want this community to thrive.”
Boothbay town manager Dan Bryer said the issue had become quite divisive.
“There are very emotional viewpoints on both sides,” he said. “And I think we’ll all be happy when Nov. 9 rolls around.”