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Portland planners recommend Waynflete School growth zone

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Portland planners recommend Waynflete School growth zone

PORTLAND — A scaled-back proposal by Waynflete School to create a zone for future growth is headed to the City Council for approval after getting a positive recommendation Tuesday night from the Planning Board.

The board's recommendation concludes several months of deliberation on the plan, including consideration of alternatives proposed by the Western Promenade Neighborhood Association, which opposed much of the school's proposal.

Waynflete on Tuesday presented a plan that removes four abutting residential buildings from its future growth zone, but includes two other residential properties it had not included previously.

The properties now included are 11 Fletcher St., 299 Danforth St., 3 Storer St. and 305 Danforth St. The school already owns the latter two properties. The homes could be converted for 60 percent school use, while the remaining 40 percent would have to remain residential

Waynflete officials proposed the overlay zone because they say they need more space for programming. On Tuesday, they said the revised zone would allow them to meet almost all their needs for building and open space.

"We don't think this addresses all our programmatic needs," Headmaster Mark Segar said during the four-hour hearing. "We do think it addresses (neighborhood) balance."

The Waynflete Overlay Zone would allow the private school to expand up and out. But to do so it will have to go back to the Planning Board for approval. A clause was written into the zoning agreement that forces the school to go before the board for any new construction or change of use of more than 5,000 square feet.

This kind of rule does not exist for any other property in the city. Site plan approval is usually triggered by a project of more than 10,000 square feet.

Several Western Promenade neighborhood residents spoke during the Planning Board hearing, and were divided about supporting the school. Those in favor said Waynflete has been a good neighbor and done a lot of work to create a zone that is fair. 

Sonia Robertson, who said she lives directly across from Waynflete on Danforth Street, supported the plan. She said the school has compromised.

"I'm getting pretty tired of other people telling the school how it should be run," Robertson said.

Representatives of the neighborhood association, meanwhile, asked the Planning Board to make several changes to the Waynflete proposal. Those changes included not allowing the school to use any of the residential properties it owns or may acquire within the zone for school use, and requiring a cap on enrollment at the school.

"Where is the balance for the neighborhood?," Anne Pringle, of the WPNA, asked.

But the board rejected including an enrollment limit in the zoning text, and while several amendments were proposed that would have limited or eliminated growth into the residential properties, none were approved.

"I don't want to get into micro-managing how they thrive," Planning Board Chairman David Silk said.

The zoning, however, includes language that specifically prohibits the school from becoming a boarding school.

The board approved recommending the overlay zone to the City Council by a vote of 5-2, with Bill Hall and Michael Patterson opposed. 

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net