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Environmental Amenities

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Highlighting Westbrook’s environmental amenities

WEIC has funded a three prong approach to marketing all the unique attributes of the City through a new website; and a two piece national ad campaign using video and print materials.


Environmental Amenities Unique to Westbrook:

  • Historical and Archeological Resources
  • Water Resources
  • Natural Resources
  • Agricultural & Forest Resources

  

HISTORICAL & ARCHEOLOGICAL RESOURCES

 

846 Main Street

 

Background 

The first European settlers were reported in what we now know as Westbrook as early as 1632.  The first deed was recorded in 1657 and the first house was built in Westbrook in 1699. The first permanent settler to locate in the area was Joseph Conant who is reported to have built a house, saw and grist mill at Saccarappa Falls in about 1739.  The primary settlement was located on the Presumpscot River, which means "many rough places river". Before the city received its name, there were two villages along the river and they were called Saccarappa and Ammoncongin.

Westbrook was originally part of neighboring Falmouth.  Westbrook became a town in 1814 and was named for Colonel Thomas Westbrook who came to Maine in 1727. Westbrook became a city in 1891.  Electric cars connected Westbrook to Portland in 1892 and in 1903 a telephone exchange was opened here.  The seal of the city contains a ship as a symbol of the ship on which Colonel Westbrook sailed from New Hampshire to Maine. The seal shows the dates when Westbrook became a town and when it became a city. It also shows an armored boot which is said to have been copied from the Westbrook family crest in England.

(Source:  Westbrook Historical Society http://www.westbrookhistoricalsociety.org/facts.html)

Conditions and Trends

Historic patterns of settlement are still evident in Westbrook.   Downtown Westbrook retains much of its buildings and character from the days before the advent of the shopping mall, when downtown was the destination for shopping, entertainment and jobs in Westbrook.  The residential neighborhoods abutting downtown represent the housing stock that provided a home to most employees and employers in downtown Westbrook.  In addition, many historical farmhouses and meeting houses still exist on the outer edges of Westbrook.  It is important to note that many residential and commercial structures from the early 1900’s are in continuous use and are well maintained.

 

However, given their age and a frequent bias toward new construction, threats to historically significant resources include the cost of environmental and building preservation, a building footprint or layout that is not consistent with the current highest and best use in the marketplace and a lack of maintenance and/or respect for the historically significant building by non-resident landlords.  In the late 1990’s, the City of Westbrook contracted with Greater Portland Landmarks to conduct a comprehensive survey of historic resources.  Over 1,350 structures and sites were assessed and recorded, revealing a rich array of historically significant buildings, landscapes and neighborhood areas.  Westbrook’s riverbeds, the shores of Highland Lake and the shores of Mill and Minnow Brooks are sensitive for prehistoric archeologically.  To the greatest extent practicable, the City of Westbrook strives to protect significant historic and archaeological resources in the community and will continue to do so.  Three layers of protection exist for historical and archeological resources in Westbrook.

 

  • The Village Review Overlay Zone, as depicted in this chapter and generally located in the downtown and the residential/commercial areas immediately to the east and west of the downtown, provides architectural guidance and review to property owners within the zone.  No building demolition, change to the exterior of an existing building, addition to an existing building, or any new construction shall occur in the Village Review Overlay Zone without the approval of either City Staff or the Planning Board.  Property owners are required to incorporate the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, Practices and Guidelines for Preservation, Restoration and Reconstruction.  The criteria for approval of alterations or additions guide owners in the maintenance of important architectural and landscape features of the property, or creating new ones that relate to surrounding properties. 

 

  • Westbrook’s comprehensive development review process requires compatibility of development with the surrounding neighborhood.  This would require new structures to be compatible with nearby historically significant structures.  This process includes maps and information provided by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

 

  • Site plan and subdivision applications require the identification and preservation of historic and archeological resources to the greatest extent practicable.  The resources depicted on the Historical and Archeological Resources map are provided by the State of Maine.

 

  • As part of the development review process, new residential subdivisions are required to provide land or a fee in lieu of land.  The purpose is to conserve important features of land and/or to provide for the recreational/open space needs of the new residents.  Land may be provided off-site if there is an effort to accumulate land nearby for a specific purpose or if a multifamily building is proposed in the downtown where there is or would be little useful space remaining for conservation or recreational/open space area.

 

  • Residents, developers and appointed and elected officials are encouraged to visit the Westbrook Historical Society, on-line or in-person, in order to view the wide variety of historical artifacts tat they host: http://www.westbrookhistoricalsociety.org

 

  • Residents, developers and appointed and elected officials are encouraged to review the historic buildings survey of Westbrook, compiled by Greater Portland Landmarks.

 

  • With substantial alteration of an historically significant building, and with construction of a new building on the site of an historically significant building, incorporate a marker on the building that briefly describes the historical significance of the property or original building.

 

histarchresource

WATER RESOURCES

WestbrookAerialDisk1 257 

Background

Westbrook has over 35 miles of watercourses and approximately 30 acres of ponds. The Presumpscot and Stroudwater Rivers and Mill Brook are significant water bodies that define Westbrook’s character. Please see the Water Resources map for water bodies that influence the natural and built environment in Westbrook. Resource Protection makes up approximately 5% of the total land in Westbrook, along the Stroudwater River, the western end of the Presumpscot River and the southern 1/3 of Mill Brook and Highland Lake. Protection measures are required in these areas in order to protect the integrity of the water body and the public health and welfare and to minimize impact on surrounding communities. 

Most people believe that water pollution is caused by pipes dumping toxic industrial waste into a river. But this type of pollution, called point source pollution, has largely been controlled by legislation such as the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress in 1972. In reality, a large amount of water pollution does not come from a single point. This type of pollution is called non-point source pollution.

Point source pollution is pollution that comes from a single source, such as a factory or wastewater treatment plant. The Clean Water Act put restrictions on how much and what kind of pollutants industries can dispose of in rivers and lakes, such restrictions are administered at the state level. While this has not eliminated industrial or domestic waste from entering our waters completely, it has reduced what once was our biggest source of water pollution.

Westbrook has combined storm and sanitary sewer systems. Sanitary sewers collect wastewater from homes and businesses and treat it before discharging it into the river. Storm sewers, on the other hand, are a direct connection to the city's waterways. Anything dumped into a storm grate or gutter discharges to a stream or lake at an outfall. Each outfall is considered to be a point source. Westbrook has been implementing a Combined Sewer Overflow Master Plan for years and spends approximately $2 million dollars per year toward eliminating combined sewer overflows, which is our biggest point source pollution. Westbrook operates a wastewater treatment plant that is running near capacity and requires basic maintenance and upgrades. New development places additional demand on the plant, which will ultimately need to be expanded.

Non-point source pollution does not have one specific source, such as a factory. Non-point source pollution comes from the cumulative effect of a region's residents going about their everyday activities, such as fertilizing a lawn or driving a car.  Any of these pollutants which get either washed or dumped into the storm sewer flow directly to a stream or lake without treatment. 

Westbrook has a permit from the state that requires management and elimination of stormwater pollution.  Westbrook is one of 28 communities that are regulated by the State of Maine for its separate storm sewer system.

As a matter of policy and practice, the Department of Public Services uses best management practices to protect water resources in their daily operations, such as performing maintenance of their salt/sand pile, their vehicle fleet and on-site mechanical equipment; sweeping streets of potential pollutants; reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizer at city facilities and reducing runoff from municipal and private construction sites. 

The City of Westbrook partners with the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) and the Presumpscot River Watershed Coalition (PRWC) to promote water resource protection. The mission of the CCSWCD is to assist and educate the public to promote stewardship of soil and water resources. The CCSWCD serves as a resource for conservation information, services and products for Cumberland County. The purpose of the PRWC is to promote the recovery and long term health of the Presumpscot River and its tributaries by implementing the Presumpscot River Management Plan which includes three focus areas:  restoring fisheries, mitigating and reducing cumulative impacts and improving and preserving open spaces.

Conditions and Trends

Construction, residential and non-residential habitation and agricultural uses have the potential to threaten water bodies.  However, there are no water bodies in Westbrook that have been categorized as impaired by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. In an effort to promote regional cooperation and to minimize the impact that Westbrook poses to nearby communities, Westbrook participates in mitigation planning with regional partners in the Long Creek watershed and Capisic Brook watershed. Westbrook will participate in a watershed management program for Nason’s Brook, predominantly located in Portland, when a program is initiated. Included in this chapter is a map depicting water bodies in Westbrook and their assigned Shoreland Zoning designation, if any. 

Condition of Water Bodies

Presumpscot and Stroudwater Rivers: These water bodies are suitable for human use (recreation, industrial process and cooling water supply and hydroelectric power generation). This state rating reflects their location in an urban setting with long term development and agriculture along the water bodies. They are fishable and swimmable and provide habitat for fish, plants and other aquatic life. The Presumpscot River is stocked with brown trout. Wild brook trout may be found in the Stroudwater River.  The Presumpscot River flows through the downtown and is primarily accessed from the Lincoln Street put-in and new ramp and float access at Riverbank Park, the end of Ash Street and at the Brown Street community garden, near Cottage Place. The Stroudwater River meanders through low-density residential neighborhoods and the back of an industrial park. Access points are currently informal.

Highland Lake: Highland Lake is located in Windham, Falmouth and its southern end is in Westbrook. The Westbrook end of the lake is surrounded by very low density residential development on a handful of parcels. The lake was designated as impaired until 2010 when, after many years of watershed restoration work by the Highland Lake Association, it was removed from the list of impaired water bodies. Highland lake is important as a recreational resource and fishery but has limited public access.

Beaver Pond: Beaver Pond is an approximately 4 acre pond that is located adjacent to downtown Westbrook. Beaver Pond is surrounded by Saccarappa Cemetery and an urban residential neighborhood. The pond is accessed from public open space and is stocked with brook trout.

Mill and Minnow Brook: Mill Brook runs between Highland Lake and the Presumpscot River, between Methodist Road and Bridgton Road. Minnow Brook runs between Falmouth and the Presumpscot River, east of Bridgton Road. Wild brook trout have been reported in both brooks and Mill Brook is stocked with brown and brook trout. Any current discharges pose no negative impact to the water bodies. Mill Brook is accessible by the public from several points along Methodist Road and from the CMP right of way that runs through the brook and crosses over both Methodist Road and Bridgton Road. Minnow Brook lacks the same level of public access.

Westbrook is in compliance with current state requirements for Shoreland Zoning, which protects the Presumpscot River, Stroudwater River and Mill Brook, while also being true to the built environment and the drive for economic development. Westbrook has three categories of Shoreland Zoning: the General Development Shoreland Zone (in the downtown, where most of the built environment predates Shoreland Zoning and Westbrook has worked in coordination with the state’s Shoreland Zoning program to tailor the program to be mutually beneficial); Resource Protection; and the Stream Protection District.

The purpose of the Shoreland Zoning Overlay districts is to maintain safe and healthful conditions; to prevent and control water pollution; to protect fish spawning grounds, aquatic life, bird and other wildlife habitat; to protect archeological and historic resources; to protect water dependent industries; to protect freshwater wetlands; to control building sites, placement of structures and land uses; to conserve shore cover, visual as well as physical points of access to inland waters; to conserve natural beauty and open space; and to anticipate and respond to the impacts of development in the shore land areas.

Westbrook is a member of the Portland Water District, which provides for the required supply of public drinking water. The source of public drinking water is Sebago Lake which also serves Greater Portland. Sebago Lake is exceptionally clear and soft - clean enough to be exempt from the expensive filtration process required of most surface water sources.  The lake covers 30,000 acres. The watershed is more than 50 miles long, stretching from Bethel to Standish and includes parts of 24 towns.

  • Westbrook will continue to work with neighboring communities and regional planning entities to comply with the adopted state and regional requirements for stormwater management and erosion and sedimentation control in order to protect water resources and improve water quality where needed.

  • Westbrook will continue to upgrade its public sewer system and wastewater treatment facilities in order to minimize pollution discharges.

  • Westbrook has had great success and will continue to review development projects on an individual basis for opportunities to incorporate low impact development standards. The cluster provisions in the RGA-3 and Rural Zoning Districts and the density incentives that encourage development in areas with access to public sewer work to reduce the impact on the environment of residential development.

  • Westbrook will encourage landowners involved in agricultural and wood harvesting to protect water quality.

  • Westbrook will continue to work with regional partners such as the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Presumpscot River Watershed Coalition and the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust to preserve the health of the water resources in Westbrook and to provide recreational opportunities for the public.

  • Westbrook will explore opportunities to improve public access to all water bodies in town; particularly Highland Lake, the Stroudwater River and Minnow Brook.

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NATURAL RESOURCES

falmouthBeaver lodge

Background

There are large tracts of undeveloped land in Westbrook that are known to include natural resources such as deer wintering areas and wetlands and/or there are view corridors that have been recognized as important to the community. Natural resources are depicted on maps within this chapter. The information on the Essential Habitat, Rare Plants and Water Resources map has been provided by the State of Maine. Westbrook follows state regulations regarding development of wetlands. Large areas of undeveloped land with access to public roads are naturally attractive for development. While development is allowed, it is guided by law in order to protect these resources to the greatest extent practicable. The development review process in Westbrook includes consideration of pertinent Beginning with Habitat maps and information regarding critical natural resources and requires developers to identify critical natural resources that may be on site and to take appropriate and practicable measures to protect those resources.  Westbrook will coordinate with neighboring communities and regional partnerships to protect such resources. 

 

  • Westbrook will continue to pursue public/private partnerships to protect resources of importance to the community through purchase of land or easements from willing sellers.

     

  • Westbrook will continue to encourage those living in or near natural resources to take advantage of the current use tax programs and applicable local, state, or federal regulations and incentives.

  • Westbrook will continue to respect private property rights.

  • Recommendations on recreation, parks and open space are included in the Recreation chapter.

AGRICULTURAL & FOREST RESOURCES

smilinghillfarm

 

Background

Active agriculture and pasture lands contribute to the cultural fabric of Westbrook but are not a primary component of the economic growth of the city.  Approximately 37 parcels are enrolled in the state’s current-use property tax program and the city encourages enrollment in these programs by eligible landowners. The growth in residential subdivisions in the northern portion of the city has resulted in pressure to develop large tracts of forested or field land. However, there are no known impediments to off-site farming or logging operations as a result of this development. The Wormell Farm (generally between Brook Street and Bridgton Road) and the Clarke Farm (on Spring Street) are being marketed for development. While neither property is in productive use as a farm, development of these properties would impact school enrollment, demand on fire and rescue services and water and sewer services. There is a farmer’s market operating in a temporary location in the downtown. A permanent location is sought.

Conditions and Trends

Land Enrolled in Current-Use Property Tax Programs

 


Acreage Enrolled

Parcels Enrolled

Parcels Enrolled Before 2000

Parcels Enrolled Since 2000

Tree Growth

766

24

19

5

Open Space

71

4

2

2

Farmland

274

9

7

2

 

  • Westbrook will consult with the Maine Forest Service district forester when developing any land use regulations pertaining to forest management practices as required by 12 MRSA §8869.
  • Westbrook will consult with the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District when developing any land use regulations pertaining to agricultural management practices.
  • Westbrook will continue to limit non-residential development in the Rural District, based on current land use policies and as further outlined in the Future Land Use Plan.
  • Westbrook will continue to permit land use activities that support productive agriculture.
  • Westbrook will work to include agriculture, commercial forestry operations, and land conservation that supports them in local or regional economic development plans.