Knightville residents come out in force against development

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The housing authority is again meeting with resistance from neighbors who oppose two affordable housing projects.

Nearly 100 people showed up when the South Portland Housing Authority held an informational meeting Tuesday evening on a new proposal to build apartments or condominiums at 51 and 63 Ocean St. in Knightville. Last week housing officials met with residents in Thornton Heights on a proposal to build two-14 unit buildings with a mixture of two- and three-bedrooms on 3 acres on Sunset Avenue.

The SPHDC, the development branch of the city Housing Authority, has proposed building more than 100 new affordable apartments in the Thornton Heights and Knightville neighborhoods.

Most who attended appeared to be against the new development.

Susanne Conley, whose property abuts the proposed new development, said, “No one wants this.”

She also said Knightville already has too much traffic.

“It is a beautiful concept, but it doesn’t fit … go somewhere else, like Scarborough.” Conley said.

Martin’s Point did just that when it vacated the building and moved its medical offices to Scarborough, but not without first proposing a medical practice for the site of the former Hamlin School.

She also suggested the housing authority pair up with developer Vincent A. Maietta and build near a  development proposed at Clark’s Pond Parkway by Maietta.

During the meeting Sandra Warren, occupancy specialist at the South Portland Housing Authority, presented three development concepts that would replace the Martin’s Point building on Ocean Avenue.

The first concept involves building 48 apartments, which include two studio apartments priced at $900 to $1,000 per month; 32-one bedroom apartments, priced at $1,200 to $1,400 per month and 14- two-bedroom apartments priced at $1,544 to $2,000 per month.

The second development concept is to build 48 condominiums, which include 2 studios, priced at $130,000 to $155,000; 32- one bedrooms units, priced at $170,000 to $190,000 and 14- two bedroom units priced at $295,000 to $330,000.

The third concept would have the same mix of apartments, but they would be split between market rate and income-restricted apartments, contingent on funding from Maine housing tax credits. Under this scenario, the two studio apartments would be market rate at $911 per month, the two-bedroom market rate apartments would rent for $1,276, while the income-restricted units would rent for $770-$920. The two-bedroom market rate units would rent for $1,544, while the two-bedroom income- restricted units would rent for $924-$1,108.

South Portland resident Natalie West called the proposed development inconsistent with the comprehensive plan. “Either you go back to the drawing board or go somewhere else,” she said – a comment that was met with a round of applause from many in the audience.

Patrizia Bailey, who works as a development consultant with the SPHD, said the development in Knightville would score well for a tax credit program because the area has walk-ability and is a short distance to necessities.

Bailey said it would probably cost $25, 000 – 45,000 to tear down the Martins Point building.

Michael Hulsey, executive director of the SPHA, said, “We recognize the need for housing.

“Our mission is to create housing,” Hulsey said. “We have to bring these projects forward. We would hope to get some support.”

At the conclusion of the meeting Hulsey said, “You have made yourself loud and clear. You have certainly made your opinions loud and clear.”

Developers have not yet filed an application with the planning board because the project would require a zoning change. Husley said housing authority staff will meet Wednesday and take into consideration the neighbors’ concerns.

In a later interview, Hulsey said SPHA will see if it is financially feasible to develop a smaller project.

Councilor Sue Henderson, who lives in Knightville, attended the meeting, and said in an interview after, “I want it to follow the comprehensive plan. This is changing the zoning willy-nilly.”

“I would not like to see the (comprehensive) plan changed,” Henderson said. “I would be happy with affordable housing if they stay within the (comprehensive) plan.”

Amy Callahan, who lives in Portland but owns property in Knightville, said she bought property because it is affordable; she plans to move to Knightville in three years. Her property would be directly across the street from the proposed development. She said she liked the idea of an apartment building but not 48 units. Callahan said the zoning change is what makes her nervous, not the affordable housing.

Several residents called Martin’s Point a beautiful building and said they wanted to see medical offices there again.

Jon Rizzo, an associate at CRE Bolos said, “We have been marketing that property for some time. We had it listed for years and there was no interest for years.”

The property was listed by CRE at $1.8 million. Rizzo also later said the real estate company has been trying to market to doctors, hospitals and veterinarians, but the property has attracted no interest.

Some residents said they were in favor of seeing some new development in Knightville, but scaled back.

Kathleen Egan of D Street said she would be happy to see a “building that is maybe three or four stories tall and has maybe 24 units.”

“We don’t need a building that size for the neighborhood. We would be happy to take a number that would fit into our neighborhoods,” Egan said.

Caroline Hendry said the small streets in Knightville were never made for automobiles.

“After being on the traffic and parking committee for a year, I can’t see how you can fit in a building of that size in the neighborhood.”

Hendry also said that having shops on the first floor would be a mistake. “All these people will come into our area and already there is no place to park.”

Tex Haeuser, ciry planning and development director, attended the meeting and told residents that some kind of change at this property is inevitable.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

Knightville resident Susanne Conley speaks out against a proposed South Portland Housing Authority development on Ocean Street during an informational meeting on Monday.