A decision on Linda Bean’s proposed Wyeth reading room was postponed by the Planning Board June 27 after a public hearing that included coordinated presentations in opposition to the plan.

The board is not likely to address the issue again until Aug. 8.

More than 50 people gathered at the Town Office for the hearing, with voices against the facility proposed for 20 Horse Point Road in Port Clyde dominating the proceedings.

More than 80 residents have signed their names in support of a group opposing the plan, according to the presentations. Rockland attorney Patrick Mellor is representing at least some of the residents.

Residents expressed a range of concerns about the reading room, which Bean has described as a mostly seasonal, library-like center for those who want to learn more about the Wyeths within their historical context in Port Clyde.

The plan has been moving through the application process, and evolving, since December of last year. The current application proposes building a 1,400-square-foot structure that would be open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the summer and by appointment in the winter.

The most consistent thread through opponents’ arguments was that the center will significantly increase traffic on Horse Point Road, a residential, dead-end street off Route 131. They argue this will cause safety hazards and change the character of the neighborhood.

Several residents said they respect Bean and think the reading room is a good idea, but that they would never accept such a facility in the location proposed.

Opponents focused in particular on a traffic study included with Bean’s application conducted by Portland consulting firm Gorrill Palmer. The study states that Horse Point Road has a capacity of 1,000 vehicles per hour, while the center would add only 17 vehicles daily to the current 600-vehicle daily traffic volume.

Horse Point Road resident Anita Siegenthaler spoke against the proposal, noting that 1,000 vehicles per hour would mean a car entering or exiting Horse Point Road every 3.6 seconds.

“The success of her project would lead to the failure of this small place,” she said.

She and Robert Hughes, also of Horse Point Road, emphasized that residents already dealt with heavy traffic, which they have had to cope with by building turnarounds on their own property.

“What if everyone puts fences and gates on all their property?” asked Hughes. “You’re gonna need tow trucks,” to get the vehicles out, he said. Bean, he said, “has no right to use our property” to deal with overflow traffic from the reading room.

Resident John Hansen referenced his experience as a Knox County sheriff’s deputy trying to enforce traffic rules in the area. “I have no dog in this race,” said Hansen, but explained that the ability of the Sheriff’s Office to monitor traffic at all times is limited.

“I think she’s got a great idea,” said Hansen, but, “I think the location is asking for trouble.”

Multiple residents said the 20-mile-per-hour speed limit on the road is violated regularly. They also pointed to its narrowness.

Horse Point Road resident Tom Lloyd and others said the reading room would lead visitors down Horse Point Road looking for the Wyeth summer home, Eight Bells. Lloyd compared the reading room to “showing kids a picture of a banana split,” and then telling them “there’s a real one five minutes up the road.”

Still others questioned whether the location has the historical significance Bean says it does, and whether such a reading room is necessary, given the presence of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland.

Bean gave a presentation explaining the project at the beginning of the hearing, but the board prevented her from responding to concerns as the clock reached 9 p.m. The meeting was extended by a vote to allow members of the public a chance to speak, then gradually dissolved, as attorneys negotiated how to fairly allocate enough time before the next meeting for each side to consider and respond to the other’s arguments and materials.

Bean did get some words in as the meeting was adjourned, saying the traffic concerns residents were raising were already an issue that would not be resolved by her withdrawal of the application.

Hughes expressed a determination to oppose the project in that location. “There’s nothing that’s going to come from Linda and her eminently qualified team,” that would persuade opponents, he said, and directly asked Bean to withdraw the application.

In an interview after the meeting, Bean said the project aimed to preserve the memory of the fishermen and fishermen’s families who had lived on the road and were often depicted in the Wyeths’ art. “Now many of them have been pushed off that road, due to property taxes,” she said.

She said she did not want Port Clyde to become solely a tourist destination, and expressed hope that a way of life centered on the fishing economy could continue. She framed the reading room as a means of memorializing Horse Point Road’s past. She also rejected the notion that the reading room would be a commercial space, or that the goal would be to maximize traffic or direct visitors to Eight Bells.

Reporter Dan Otis Smith can be reached at 594-4401 x123 or by email at dsmith@villagesoup.com.