Evergreen Cemetery: Brentwood Parcel Advisory Board Meeting #2

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1 Evergreen Cemetery: Brentwood Parcel Advisory Board Meeting #2 Date: March 16, 2010 Meeting Notes Attending: Cynthia Loebenstein, Friends of Evergreen Noni Ames, Maine Olmsted Alliance for Parks and Landscapes, Past President Deb Andrews, City of Portland Historic Preservation John Turk, Historic Preservation Committee, Past President Elizabeth Tarasevich, DCNA Representative Thomas Civiello, City of Portland, Parks and Open Space Manager Tanya Seredin, Mohr & Seredin, Landscape Architects Discussion A. Public meeting. The meeting will be located at Wilde Memorial Chapel on Tuesday, March 23 from 6:00 7:30. Meeting participants will be allowed to park inside the cemetery. The gate will be closed, but the FOE will have a key and let people out after the meeting is over. Cynthia sent out a press release last week, and she will prepare flyers for the immediate neighbors and local shops. FOE will open the meeting by welcoming the participants, explaining the background and purpose for the meeting. B. Update on Community Gardens: Elizabeth showed a copy of the current site plan that was prepared by Amy Segal. She explained that the stormwater plans haven t been completed yet, and that Amy was planning on submitting the package to the city planning staff for review on Monday, March 22. Amy had met with Tanya, and the plan reflected modifications based on that meeting. The Advisory Board was generally pleased with the design. It was decided that the design would be reviewed in detail at the end of the meeting once Tanya presented the draft sketch master plan. C. Master Planning:Tanya began the presentation by explaining that the materials that will be presented to the Advisory Board are the same that will be presented at the public meeting, although they may be kept simpler at the public meeting.

2 1. Background information. Tanya reviewed relevant background information pertaining to the cemetery and spoke and met with many individuals who have knowledge or interest of the Brentwood property. Information reviewed included the Nomination Form for the National Register of Historic Places, the 1994 Master Plan prepared by Liz Vizza of Halvorson Associates, and the City s zoning ordinance. Individuals met with or spoken to include Joe Dumais, Tom Civiello, and Jeff Tarling of the city, Liz Vizza, and Amy Segal from the Deering Center Neighborhood Association. One interesting item in particular stood out in the National Register form, and that is as each phase of the historic cemetery was developed, it exemplified the burial trends from its time. The original cemetery had the curving drives with raised burial areas. Later nineteenth century expansions had more lawn style burials with uninterrupted grass with the headstones within. The 1994 Master Plan had mostly vague recommendations for the Brentwood property, but did suggest that the use be either expansion of burial space or cemetery support area. It did recommend improvements to the entrance and the planting of a vegetated buffer along the edges of the abutting properties. 2. Existing site conditions. Many aspects were examined of the property were reviewed, and an existing conditions plan was prepared: a. Property Configuration: The property is approximately 235 wide by 1200 long, and slopes from Brentwood Street toward the back of the lot. It is abutted to the North and West by the historic cemetery, and to the south and east by primarily single family houses on fairly small lots. The front 2.5 acres of the property is currently under a 5 year lease to the DCNA to be used for community gardens. b. Soils and Wetlands: Albert Frick Associates reviewed the site and prepared a preliminary plan that showed the soil types and delineated the wetlands. (This was done pro bono for the Friends of Evergreen). The soils are primarily Scantic and Deerfield soils, which are low and somewhat poorly drained. There are a few small wetlands delineated, although not as extensive as originally thought. The land next to Brentwood is classified as filled land. c. Drainage: In general, the property slopes from Brentwood Street to the south. The water leaves the side via a 12 drain in the lower corner of the site. Some of the abutting property owners complain of drainage problems especially adjacent to the area of filled land. Page 2

3 d. Slopes: There are areas of very steep slopes (greater than 20%) on the sides of the filled land toward the front of the lot adjacent to the cemetery and the abutting homes. There is an area of moderate slopes at the back of the filled land (between 10% and 20%). The remainder of the site is gently sloping to fairly flat. e. Vegetation: The western boundary between the lot and the historic cemetery is defined by an overly mature hedge of Norway spruce. Adjacent to the hedge on both sides is succession growth. There is additional succession growth, including many invasive species throughout the property, including adjacent to the abutting neighbors. There are areas of overgrown fields primarily toward the back of the lot. 3. Site Analysis: A site analysis plan was prepared that evaluates the dominant characteristics of the property. One major feature of the property is the spruce hedge. It is very tall and creates a strong edge between the historic cemetery and the Brentwood area. There is no significant edge between the Brentwood lot and the neighbors. The result is that the parcel feels like a vacant lot it doesn t feel like it belongs to the cemetery. The uses proposed for the parcel for both the long term master plan, and the short term planning will need to consider the 4. Program for the long range plan: The long range uses proposed for this parcel of Evergreen Cemetery need to consider three items: The needs for the cemetery, the impacts and needs of the neighborhood, and the passive recreation component of the cemetery: a. Cemetery needs i. Cemetery Support. The support functions of the cemetery could be maintenance, including garages, soils stockpiles, stormwater management, and a tree nursery area. This parcel is not well suited to serve the cemetery for active, heavy maintenance or soils stockpile area based on the proximity to residences, and the vehicular access to the parcel. It would be well suited for stormwater management, and for a tree nursery. ii. Interment / Burial space: Burial needs were discussed with city and cemetery staff. They indicated that there is plenty of existing area currently being used for traditional in-ground burial, and it would be many many decades or centuries even, before the Brentwood parcel would need to be considered for this type of use. In addition, very little land on the parcel would be suitable due to the high groundwater. However, there is a demand for cremation Page 3

4 niche walls which the cemetery is presently not able to fill. There is even the potential to generate a fair amount of revenue from this. The soils would be able to support the development of niche walls. Other alternative methods should be explored, such as a cremation garden. iii. Secondary Entrance to the Cemetery: The third category of cemetery needs at this location is the secondary entrance. The 1994 Master Plan identified this as an area that needs upgrades and improvement. b. Neighborhood issues: The property abuts the back yards of several residents, so anything that takes place on the land will have some affect on the neighbors. The upcoming public meeting will be a good opportunity to hear from the neighbors as to what their concerns and issues are. A few of the items are: i. Drainage: Some abutting neighbors have concerns about the stormwater runoff. ii. Buffers: The cemetery has, in general, a fence and planted buffer at its edges where it abuts residential areas. The present developed cemetery edge occurs between the Brentwood parcel and the historic section of the cemetery. A new buffer will need to be established between the Brentwood parcel and the neighbors. The Master Plan calls for an informal buffer of mixed evergreen and deciduous plantings. It will be important to understand the level of buffer/transparency desired by the neighborhood. iii. Security: At present, the security gate to the cemetery occurs between the Brentwood parcel and the developed cemetery. This has allowed the Brentwood lot to be accessed by cars and partiers, and to be used as a dumping ground for unwanted appliances. What are the neighborhood concerns about security at this site? iv. On-street parking: c. Passive Recreation: Portland Trails has a trail that connects through the Brentwood lot. 5. Integration / Entrance a. For this property to function as part of the Evergreen Cemetery for the long term, it will need to be integrated gracefully into the developed cemetery, and the entrance will need to be better defined. The entrance to the cemetery needs to be moved to the beginning of the cemetery property, Page 4

5 and there needs to be a respectful, ceremonial character to the entrance. This entrance should recall the main entrance at Stevens Ave, and in fact there are many similarities. b. The Norway Spruce hedge to the north and east of the lot is old and in decline and is starting to have gaps. As it declines, there will be opportunity to allow for openings between the cemetery areas which will allow the Brentwood area to be integrated into the overall cemetery, while still keeping some definition between the historic and new sections of the cemetery. 6. Sketch Plan a. A draft sketch master plan was presented to the group. This showed the lower third of the lot being used for cemetery support stormwater management and a small tree nursery. The center of the lot is shown as developed for cremation niche walls with a loop road entering from the historic cemetery. The frontage on Brentwood street is developed as an entry zone. The niche wall closest to the road would be approximately 200 into the site, and would be visible from the entry, and would be a beautiful visual element from the entry. The zone between the wall and the road would be park like with trees, and possibly ornamental garden space. This garden space could be a memorial garden and could be used as a cremation garden. b. A detail sketch of the entry zone was presented. The entry should have masonry post s inspired in scale, materials, or placement by the posts at the Stevens Avenue entrance. The road should be granite curbed on both sides, and should have a sidewalk again similar to the Stevens Avenue entrance. A double allee of deciduous trees should flank the driveway from the beginning of the Brentwood lot to the entrance to the historic part of the cemetery. Benches could be sited along the walk to serve as seating areas. There was much discussion about the location of the gate to the cemetery. If the gate were located at the beginning of the cemetery property, where it was located until about 20 years ago, it would allow the fence to be removed on the east side of Brentwood Street, and the parcel would flow much better into the cemetery as a whole. However, the neighbors might prefer to keep the fence where it is to allow after-hours parking along this section of the street. It was suggested that for an interim period, maybe two gates would be installed. Page 5

6 7. The detail sketch plan was overlaid on the proposed Brentwood Gardens plan. It was agreed that the plans worked well together, and that the transitions from the site as it is now, to the proposed Community Gardens, to the long range plan seemed to work smoothly. The Advisory Board had a few comments and questions: a. The Board recommended switching the raspberry patch with the adjacent fruit trees. The fruit trees would be more visually appealing closer to the road, and would be in a better location for the long range planning. The switch might also better suit the location for the raspberries. b. Look at understating the sitting area even further to allow the allee and sidewalk to emphasize the cemetery entrance rather than to formalize the community gardens. c. The Advisory Board had questions about what the fence would look like. Tanya and Elizabeth explained that it would probably be wooden posts with a top rail and bottom rail, with galvanized or vinyl coated mesh between. Some board members had trouble visualizing what it might look like. Tanya suggested considering fencing a larger area running the fence within the high bush blueberry edge that is parallel to the allee of trees, and running it along the sides of the property, and possibly encompassing the fruit trees. Elizabeth was concerned about the extra cost, but agreed to review it with Amy. 8. Public Meeting Presentation: Cynthia and Tanya will coordinate the presentation details. Suggestions were made to include more descriptive text on the plans, and to include a plan that shows the entry design integrated with the community gardens. It was also recommended to show a sketch elevation of what the buffer planting between the site and the neighboring houses might look like. \\Server\f\Projects\734-Brentwood Parcel\Correspondence\Meeting NOtes #2.doc Page 6

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