Planning Board OKs Willard Square building moratorium

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Familiar development plan floated in Knightville

SOUTH PORTLAND — The Planning Board voted, 4-3, Tuesday to recommend a 95-day moratorium on construction in the Willard Square commercial district.

The moratorium was first proposed earlier in May amid residents’ opposition to a proposal to build a new business, Ebo’s Market, in Willard Square. That proposal was withdrawn last week.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Knightville-Mill Creek Neighborhood Association say two developers are considering a upscale market for the Knightville area that would be similar to the Ebo’s Market proposal.

The pair are in talks with Leddy Houser Associates about a property on Ocean Street, according to the association.

City Council requested a planing board recommendation on the Willard Square moratorium, which is intended to give the city time to establish design standards and examine parking and traffic concerns in the village. The Council is expected to take up the issue on June 6.

Many people who live in and near the square were loudly opposed to the construction of Ebo’s Market. The developers, Glenn Perry and Ian Hayward, have since pulled the proposal, but residents are still eager to plan for future development at Willard Square and for what it will mean for their neighborhood.

Many spoke in support of the moratorium on Tuesday.

“There’s an opportunity here to create a lovely little business district,” said Chris Trout, who lives a half-block from Willard Square. “(But) now’s the time to be thoughtful about it … to make sure the design guidelines are there so it can become a lovely business district that matches the neighborhood.”

The three planning board members who voted against the moratorium, Jerry Jalbert, Amy Cullen and Paul McKee, said they did so because they didn’t believe it was necessary to stop all construction so the city could address questions of design, parking and traffic.

Board members Caroline Hendry, Susan Hasson, Rob Schreiber and Curt Jensch voted in favor of the moratorium.

In Knightville, neighborhood association Vice Chairwoman Sarah Kirn said a pair of business partners met with the association at the last meeting.

On the association’s Facebook page, Kirn wrote the pair “are negotiating with Leddy Houser to bring a provisions store (produce, wine, coffee, prepared foods, sandwiches — think Rosemont Bakery-ish) to Mill Cove Landing on Ocean Street. They are testing the waters in Knightville to see if this neighborhood (businesses and residents) would be supportive of or opposed to the idea.”

Hayward and Perry, the businessmen behind the former Ebo’s Market proposal, worked together at Rosemont Bakery in Yarmouth.

In an interview, Kirn wouldn’t say whether the duo is Hayward and Perry, saying only that the unnamed developers “were not interested in going public.”

“We talked about posting something on Facebook because they did want to begin getting some public input,” Kirn said Wednesday. 

Tex Haeuser, planning and development director in South Portland, said he didn’t know who was in talks for the Ocean Street property, but said it sounds a lot like Hayward and Perry.

“Somebody, I don’t know who, is floating a trial balloon,” Haeuser said. He said the planning board encourages developers to meet with neighborhood associations before bringing proposals to the planning board.

Leah Lippman, chairwoman of the neighborhood association, also declined Wednesday to comment on the developers’ identities, but said she hoped they “feel Knightville is worthy of a market of that caliber. It would be amazing for the neighborhood.”

Lippman and Kirn both said they didn’t think the as-yet unnamed duo would face the same kind of vocal resident opposition faced by Hayward and Perry in Willard Square. They said Knightville has been waiting for development ever since the Casco Bay Bridge redirected South Portland-bound traffic onto Broadway instead of Ocean Street.

Calls for comment to Leddy Houser Associates and Ian Hayward were not returned by press time.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.