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Developer withdraws plan for South Portland waterfront concerts; state office building moves forward

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Developer withdraws plan for South Portland waterfront concerts; state office building moves forward

SOUTH PORTLAND — A planned state office building is moving ahead, but the likelihood of waterfront concerts is murky, after Tuesday's Planning Board meeting.

By a unanimous vote, the board approved the site plan for a 75,000-square-foot state office building near Portland International Jetport.

Developer John Cacoulidis, meanwhile, withdrew his application for the permits needed to build a waterfront concert venue near Bug Light Park.

Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings said he met with Cacoulidis on Wednesday to discuss "operational ideas that may help move this forward."

On Thursday, Jennings said he would continue the discussions with Cacoulidis next week.

Jennings, landscape architect Steve Doe, and real estate broker Thomas Moulton approached the Planning Board in a Feb. 11 workshop with plans to convert 23 acres of land owned by Cacoulidis off Front Street along the Fore River to a concert venue that could host as many as 10,000 people.

The property is adjacent to another seven acres owned by Cacoulidis that would help provide parking for events. Jennings said events could begin as soon as June.

Plans called for Cacoulidis to oversee clearing and preparing the land, while individual shows and events would be set up by promoters. Access was proposed along Front and Madison streets, with additional parking anticipated at nearby Southern Maine Community College.

State offices

The board said Eric and Ken Cianchette can construct the office building on Jetport Drive, but the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor and Workers Compensation Board cannot occupy the new offices unless certain conditions are met.

The developers also must show the financial ability to tear down the building and return the land to its current state if they fail to obtain occupancy permits.

This allows the Cianchettes to proceed with the project, while facing the risk and mitigation costs of restoring the land if storm water permits and easements are not granted.

The 75,000-square-foot, two-story building will combine departments now in downtown Portland. One condition for approval requires bus shelters to be constructed, but they will not be on the property.

An amendment to the subdivision plan at adjacent Johnson Transport on City Line Drive, which would provide access for state employees to the new building, was postponed until March 11.

Because the proposed employee access crosses the city limits, it also must be approved by the Portland Planning Board.

In other business, the board voted 5-1, with Chairman William Laidley opposed, to give a favorable recommendation to the City Council on proposed zoning changes in the Thornton Heights area.

Drafted to enact provisions of the Comprehensive Plan approved in October 2012, the changes to Chapter 27 of the city code propose creating two zones along Main Street from near Noyes Street east to Southwell Avenue.

The area, including undeveloped land stretching to Rigby Yards, would be rezoned into a Main Street Community Commercial Zone and Thornton Heights Commercial Zone.

The Main Street zone would extend east from Aspen to Southwell avenues along Main Street, but would incorporate all of the St. John the Evangelist properties sold around 611 Main St.

The properties were bought by Methuen, Mass.,-based Cafua Management last December. The company, which owns about 200 Dunkin' Donuts in New England and upstate New York, planned to tear down the church and build a Dunkin' Donuts on the property.

The new Main Street zone expressly prohibits drive-through windows for restaurants, and at the urging of the board, was amended to also ban 24-hour restaurants.

City Planning Director Tex Haeuser said prohibiting drive-throughs could steer Cafua to lease 2.3 acres of city-owned land at the corner of Main and Westbrook streets to build a restaurant.

The board also included extended stays at motels in the Thornton Heights Commercial Zone as a special use after Haeuser proposed capping stays at 14 consecutive days and 21 days in a year.

Anchor Motel owner Rachel Wanser said capping the extended stays would hurt her business and objected to being put in the same category as a competitor across the street, which has been a source of neighborhood complaints and frequent police calls.

Wanser said she runs a seasonal business favored by visitors who arrive to see family and friends and may stay as long as two months.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.