Letter: Portland Planning Board member explains vote

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Planning Board members take an oath to uphold Portland’s ordinances and the interests of all people in the city. Every vote I cast on a proposed zone change causes me to evaluate the public interest. There is no way that all people can be satisfied with every decision of the Planning Board, or any other city body. But that doesn’t mean the system isn’t working.

In the case of the proposed zone change for outer Westbrook Street described in Halsey Frank’s recent column (“Portland’s planning process isn’t working”), the facts and reasons I voted to recommend this change were:

• The developer has a right, under current zoning, to develop 84 house lots on the property, without any zone change and no public open space.

• The developer is offering to create at least 24 acres of permanent public open space along the Stroudwater River. When is the last time the city acquired this much land for public recreation?

• The smaller lots will provide housing that is more affordable than if the large-lot subdivision was approved.

• The environmental concerns raised are all carefully reviewed as part of the city’s Site Plan and Subdivision Review process.

• The proposed zoning changes in this area were found to be in compliance with the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan. The plan was the product of over 18 months of public outreach and input, and represents the best consensus of the city’s goals for managing growth.

David Eaton, member
Portland Planning Board