Franklin Countys First News

Commissioners discuss scenic turnout in Madrid

FARMINGTON - County commissioners discussed the possibility of creating a scenic turnout in Madrid at Tuesday's board meeting, a proposal that potentially incorporates driver safety, river bank stabilization, a single-lane bridge and the demolition of existing structures.

The site in question includes a narrow parcel of property between Route 4 and the Sandy River, at the intersection with the Reeds Mill Road. A local group is seeking to acquire the land, demolish the old Madrid Store and Poacher's Paradise buildings, and create a scenic turnout with some limited parking. The project has been in the works for some time, with local proponents waiting for a Maine Department of Transportation highway project to improve that section of Route 4. The project has also been waiting for the county to amend its Tax Increment Financing district to include that area.

According to Nancy Perlson, the treasurer of the Madrid Historical Society, the turnout could represent a starting point for people heading north to view other stops, such as Height of Land and the Rangeley and Oquossoc villages, along the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway. There would be an acknowledgement of the history of Madrid Store and the town.

There is a safety issue that goes beyond the turnout. The old store building currently cuts off view of the Reeds Mill Road bridge, which is one-lane. As a result, Perlson said, people on the bridge trying to get onto Route 4 do not have clear sight lines. Additionally, people turning off Route 4 cannot see vehicles on the bridge and are sometimes forced into sudden stops that become problematic when traffic is coming from behind.

One of the major concerns with the project has been a past state appraisal of the value of the land and buildings, which everyone at Tuesday's meeting suggested was too high, at $80,000. Both buildings are suspected to be complete losses that need to be torn down; Perlson said that she believed that one was actually condemned by the state back when a resident was living there. The cost of demolition could be more than acquiring the property, commissioners said. Redevelopment of the land could not incorporate new structures, given its proximity to the river, so its value is basically constrained to serving as a turnout of some kind.

The site has already seen an extensive Brownfields clean-up project through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection Voluntary Response Action Program. That project removed 200 tires, barrels of unknown substances and investigated the earth around the old gas pumps, Perlson said. There may be some hazardous elements to the buildings that were not targeted by that project, including asbestos and lead paint.

In addition to the TIF, Perlson said that the project could seek the support of the Municipal Partnership Initiative. That MDOT money can be used for improvements that include safety components. Additionally, the Madrid Historical Society has roughly $120,000 remaining from the town's dis-incorporation back in 2000. While those funds were believed to be earmarked for an eventual re-incorporation, they may not actually carry that requirement. Commissioner Terry Brann of Wilton suggested that use of those funds should also be considered.

The buildings are not a physical barrier to the one-lane bridge, but the store would likely be in the way if the bridge were to be replaced by a larger, two-lane version. At some point, Commissioner Charlie Webster of Farmington noted, that bridge would need to be replaced, probably with a two-lane bridge. The state owns that bridge.

The other, somewhat related issue is the Sandy River. Franklin County Emergency Management Agency Director Tim Hardy has been meeting with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a landowner, Raymond Plog, who is losing land to the unstable banks of the Sandy, to a point where he is concerned his home may be in danger. Hardy said that all work near the Sandy River upstream of Plog's residence needed to be managed to ensure it didn't make the problem worse. Prior to spending significant funds on a turnout project, Hardy advised, commissioners should consult with the key players in the stabilization project.

Webster suggested meeting with the property owner of the would-be turnout to discuss a possible price for the land. With that number in hand, commissioners agreed, they could begin considering how and if the project could precede. Another possibility, Webster said, was discussing the eventual replacement of the one-lane bridge with MDOT, with the understanding that at some point the old store would need to be torn down.

In other business, commissioners accepted a $295,480 bid to plow snow in Freeman Township and Madrid, an increase from the previous contract's annual prices of $266,605. That was the only bid, submitted by Fenwick Construction.

Commissioners previously decided to break out some 4.4 miles in West Freeman from that contract, in an effort to see if it made sense if a different contractor wanted to plow that geographically separate section. There was no bid for that section, and so commissioners ordered that it be re-bid Tuesday.

Commissioners also decided against filing for intervenor status in the ongoing state-approval process for the Central Maine Power New England Clean Energy Connect project. Commissioners said that it appeared different towns had different opinions on the project and that they did not want to take a political side.

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10 Responses »

  1. I have good memories of that store, standing there drinking a soda, watching pulp trucks 'thread the needle" coming onto that bridge as we stocked up for a trip to Smalls Falls. I have pictures of my parents when they were teens hanging out at Poacher's Paradise. It would seem weird driving past there and not seeing the old store.

  2. What's wrong with the twelve other scenic turn outs on the way to Rangeley? I think that money could be better spent on things to benefit the community, instead of a select few.

  3. I think there are many of us that have good memories of Poachers Paradise and Jacks store.

  4. Not sure this would be the best use of TIF dollars. There is no scenic view. I would not pull in there for the “veiw”. The view of a bunch of old homes along a river in the middle of the woods. Seems like a stretch and we have a lot more important things to spend that money on.

  5. if it ain't broke, don' fix it! money could be used for better projects

  6. I predict about the same number of people will use this "scenic" turnout as use the park at the end of High Street in Farmington. Zero.

  7. I grew up there, so many memories ☺im thinking as many times as ive come across the bridge both ways i do not recall a scenic view. I think the money could be better spent...i am surprised that a madrid resident is promoting this, most madrid people are happy with the quaint quite area without chamge

  8. from Daily Bulldog on 9/10 - looks like funds have already been allocated for this project

    Also approved was $50,000 for the Madrid Historical Society in conjunction with the Madrid Gateway project. That partnership effort would acquire land and buildings at the site of the former Madrid Store on the Sandy River. Existing buildings would be torn down and a scenic turnout would be installed with interpretive panels and a kiosk to provide information about the history of Madrid. In addition to the tourism benefit, the project would seek to provide unobstructed line of sight for those crossing the single-lane bridge over the Sandy. Magoon noted that the organizers would likely be meeting with the commissioners about partnering to request additional funds through the Maine Department of Transportation Municipal Partnership Initiative.

  9. I hope commissioners demand a better performance for plowing Freeman after awarding a bid so much higher than last year.
    And this whole Madrid thing is a joke. I thought this board was supposedly conservative! Let the landowner of these junk buildings deal with their bad investment.

  10. I'm happy to see that the conversation supporting this turnout is still active. This turnout is a beautiful spot along the Sandy River with birch trees lining the road. As it's the beginning of the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway it would be beneficial to all to tell the story of Madrid, and welcome visitors to the Rangeley Region.

    As a previous resident of the Reeds Mill Road in Madrid, I would be thankful to see those buildings removed to increase the line of sight (and prevent harmful building materials from leaching into the Sandy River) when turning onto and off of Route 4. It would also be appropriate to widen the road to allow for two lanes of traffic for safety's sake.

    As a local, I appreciate our way of life and the quaintness of Madrid BUT we are fooling ourselves if we think that this is sustainable.