LISBON – Route 196 is the face of Lisbon – but could use a lift.
Town Planner Amanda Bunker challenged council members, Planning Board members, citizens, and business owners Thursday night to set priorities and talk specifics to change what is largely a negative perception of the three villages along Route 196 that make up the heart of the town.
“Lisbon’s quality of place has got to be brought up a notch,” Bunker said. “The town has a lot of character. It just needs to shine because it’s a competitive market. People are looking for a certain kind of community to live in… to do business in.”
The master plan that will be created for Route 196 will be developed in three sections. Thursday night’s workshop focused on the northern section, beginning at the Lewiston city line south to Moody Road.
“We will be looking at what the vision is for the gateway – the entrance to Lisbon, the commercial strip, and then the transition to the village,” she said.
Bunker showed a series of photographs that illustrated the wide variety of structures along the route: large commercial buildings like Dingley Press; large retail buildings such as Floor Systems and The Furniture Superstore; car repair garages, old farmhouses; small dilapidated houses, well kept houses and businesses that ranged from new to run down.
She also showed that an existing structure can be spruced up with a coat of paint, landscaping, a new sign and lighting.
This prompted a question about how much actual control the town has over the appearance of the properties along the road: “I don’t see the visual aspect of this. You can’t just knock on someone’s door and say your house is really ugly.”
Council Chairman Fern Larochelle said, “That’s one of the thing we really struggle with — we have no control over about 90 percent of this. But we can come up with guidelines for the Planning Board. We can have some design standards in planning for new growth.”
Bunker said it’s not necessarily the type of business that dictates how it will look, pointing out how different the McDonald’s restaurant in Freeport is from most other McDonald’s. She showed two photos of the same auto parts business: one in a typical, square, cement block building in Lisbon, and another in Richmond, located in an older three story building with a new façade.
At the end of her presentation, Bunker divided the group into three sections to brainstorm some ideas, urging them to set priorities.
“What’s most important about the corridor? Tell us what the corridor should be. If you just throw out a laundry list, nothing’s going to get done.”