New Kittery Group to monitor venue plans “KITTERY CAN”
June 02, 2014 2:00 AM

KITTERYCANKITTERY, Maine — A group of town residents concerned about a proposal for a concert venue on Dennett Road has formed an organization and expects to be a presence as any plans for the site go forward.

The Kittery Community Action Network formed following a May 13 meeting with principals of the Sustainable Entertainment Group. More than 75 people attended the meeting, according to Kittery CAN member Helen Betz.

“It was very well attended. People are paying attention to this,” she said.

The Sustainable Entertainment Group is proposing to build a 7,000-seat outdoor amphitheater and 2,600-seat performing arts center on a 110-acre parcel on Dennett Road.

Although those plans are expected to be phased in over time, the group would like to hold some concerts this summer on the land. Principal Michael Behrmann has said the concerts are intended in part to determine the extent of safety, parking, noise and other issues.

As of Thursday, the principals had not filed either a plan with the Planning Department or a permit with the Town Council for an event.

Betz, who lives across the street from the parcel, said people at the meeting asked “detailed and pointed” questions about the long-range plans — “and there were a lot of them.”

“Have there been traffic studies? How are you going to address traffic not only there but in other parts of town? What are your plans for security? Have you thought about the fact that this could lower property values? Where is your money coming from? Do you have any money?” she said, enumerating some of the concerns.

As for the last matter, money, Betz said the principals of the Sustainable Entertainment Group were “reluctant to say” where their funding was coming from. In past interviews, Behrmann has said the partners are looking for investors, both private and nonprofit.

The Kittery Performing Arts Center is set up as an L3C, a hybrid between a nonprofit and a for-profit entity that is designed to make only limited profit and allows the owners to seek foundation funding.

As for concerts this summer, Betz said people are “skeptical. A small summer concert is not going to attract the same kind of audience that would come to an amphitheater or indoor performance,” she said.

Behrmann said in an e-mail that he thought the meeting went well, and the audience provided “very valuable perspectives and reasonable concerns. We take them all very seriously.”

Betz said she personally believes the partners are “very genuine about wanting input from the community.”

“However,” she added, “they don’t seem to have a very good sense of the kind of pushback this is getting in the neighborhood.”

She said Kittery CAN grew out of a neighborhood group that has been meeting since the Sustainable Entertainment Group first announced its plans this spring. She said the group has really coalesced around this issue and meets regularly.

“We have some working subgroups that are dealing with communications, traffic, safety and town ordinances,” she said. “People are working on bits and pieces so that we can be prepared for whatever comes up next.”

For information on Kittery CAN, visit the group’s Facebook page.