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Portland City Council relaxes zoning for Hampshire Street project

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Portland City Council relaxes zoning for Hampshire Street project

PORTLAND — A developer will have more flexibility in designing a proposed commercial and residential complex in the India Street neighborhood, thanks to zoning changes approved Wednesday by the City Council.

Hampshire Street Properties is seeking permission to build a 60-foot-tall building between Franklin and Hampshire streets. It would have 24 market-rate condominiums and attach to a three-story commercial building at the corner of Newbury Street.

To accommodate the project, and with the recommendation of the Planning Board, the council voted 7-0 to change the area from a residential zone to a business zone. The council also approved taller height limits and lower setback requirements.

"We need to be building up in the city and not be constrained by artificial height requirements," said Steven Sharp, a High Street resident who spoke to the council.

But Councilor Kevin Donoghue expressed concerns about the "pedestrian experience" of the complex, whose ground floor would include a parking structure.

Councilor John Anton said that while the use of parking structures in Portland is preferable to street parking, he shares Donoghue's concern.

"The theme that's emerging, and it's largely positive, is that we're going to see more structured parking," Anton said. "But we need to do some thinking about first-floor parking. ... I'd ask the Planning Board to dig into it more globally."

The Hampshire Street complex must still have a site plan review and receive approval from the Planning Board.

In other business, the council is taking more time to decide whether to change rules that determine where residents can smoke and when they must clear snow from sidewalks.

The council returned a proposed smoking ban to the Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee for further review, at the request of Councilor Edward Suslovic, the committee's chairman.

The proposal would have expanded city prohibitions on smoking to include parks and public places. But after bringing it to the council, the committee decided to revise the proposal's list of no-smoking areas.

"We didn't realize that there's not an easy way to define what a public place is," Suslovic said.

As part of the proposal's revision, the committee will remove areas from the no-smoking list where the ban would be redundant or impractical to enforce.

Another proposal on the agenda, to amend the city code's snow-clearing rules, will be discussed when the council meets on Sept. 19.

Councilor Jill Duson, who was not present, requested the rescheduling.

The amendment would direct the Department of Public Works to define exceptions to the requirement that residential property owners remove snow from abutting sidewalks. The amendment would also provide an appeal process for property owners who are cited for violating the rules.

The amendment was previously discussed at the council's Aug. 6 meeting. But councilors deadlocked 4-4 in a vote on the amendment, requiring it to be scheduled for another vote.

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.