SOUTH PORTLAND — A plan to build a new market and catering business at Willard Square is in limbo after the City Council tabled a proposed 180-day moratorium on construction in the neighborhood.
Councilors voted 5-1 on Monday, with Councilor Maxine Beecher opposed, to delay the discussion until after the council holds a workshop on the issue on Monday, May 9.
Town Manager Jim Gailey said he has been inundated by emails from residents of the area concerned about traffic and parking.
“There are very few times has a city council has seen a moratorium come forward,” Gailey said. “New construction during these times is a welcome sight. However, there is a time to slow a process down and I think this is one of those times.”
Developers Ian Hayward and Glenn Perry will have the opportunity at the workshop to present their plans for the Pillsbury Street store they plan to call Mr. Delicious.
“The timing is unfair to me and unfair to (the) applicant,” Councilor Thomas Coward said during Monday’s meeting.
Coward said he received information about the moratorium for the first time on Friday, April 29, and that he wanted more time to review it before making a decision.
“I think we owe it to everybody to have a discussion about this,” he said.
After the workshop, the council will likely have a first reading of the proposed moratorium on May 16. If it passes, it will go to Planning Board review before returning to the council for a second reading, possibly on June 6.
If ultimately the moratorium is approved, it will be retroactive to May 2. The Mr. Delicious site plan, submitted to the town Monday, is frozen until the council makes its decision.
“The prospect of a 180-day cease and desist is a frightening process,” Perry said Monday. “We hope we’ll be able to work hand in glove with our regulators to make this happen as quickly and copacetically as possible.”
While the proposed moratorium is for up to 180 days, several councilors indicated that they would like to see design standards created and the issue resolved more quickly.
The nearby Knightville neighborhood already has design standards, which Gailey said could be easily adjusted and applied to Willard Square. The Knightville design standards include requiring buildings to blend in with the surrounding architecture and build up to the sidewalk, with parking in the rear.
Two-story buildings in Knightville are required to have first-floor commercial and second-floor residential designs, something lacking in the Mr. Delicious proposal for the two-story building at 7 Pillsbury St.
Several residents spoke in support of the moratorium Monday. They also presented the council with a petition signed by 200 people.
“Willard Square is a very special place, nestled in a neighborhood full of people who want the best for their community,” Annie Leonard said before handing the signatures to councilors.
“I think we need the time to do this well and right,” Susan McCray added. “We want to make sure we come together … and create a plan that works for everyone.”