Portland approves zoning change for Husson University

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PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday approved a zoning change that will allow Husson University to move its campus from South Portland to outer Congress Street.

The change to the R2 zone will allow “universities, colleges, and trade schools” within the zone as a conditional use.

Husson administrators have said that the move, which will involve buying and renovating the Elks Lodge 188 property at 1945 Congress St., will allow the college to develop more of “an identity.”

But opposition from neighbors to the prospect of increased traffic, the potential beginning of urban sprawl, and evening and weekend use of the building – and a February Planning Board deadlock that failed to send a clear recommendation to the council – forced Husson and the Elks to propose several conditions to the zoning change.

Councilors voted on an amendment that presented expected limits on building size (no more than 24,000 square feet) and two new conditions: that new institutions of higher learning be located only on arterial roads in the R2 zone, and that they be required to demonstrate that they have sufficient land to expand before establishing operations.

“This amendment, particularly the additional condition … is what allows me to vote” in favor of Husson’s proposal, Councilor John Anton said. “This creates another barrier or hurdle – an appropriate hurdle – for new institutions to get approval.”

While some neighbors left the meeting arguing that the city had not given them the opportunity to voice their opposition to the change – City Planner Alex Jaegerman said that neighbors within 500 feet of the property should have received post cards with information about public hearings – Husson and Elks representatives were pleased with the council’s vote.

“We couldn’t be happier,” said real estate broker Mark Malone, who represented the two organizations during the application process.

The rezone is “the first of many steps” as Husson and the Elks hammer out agreements to allow the university to move to Congress Street and the Elks to a smaller building at 178 Warren Ave.

“Without this, nothing else could be done,” Malone said.

Andrew Cullen can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or acullen@theforecaster.net. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @ACullenFore.

PORTLAND — The City Council voted Monday to approve a zoning change that will allow Husson University to move their local campus from South Portland to outer Congress Street.

The text change to the R2 zone will allow for “universities, colleges, and trade schools” within the zone as a conditional use.

Husson had pursued the zone change along with Elks Lodge 188 in hopes of bringing their campus to Portland proper. Husson administrators have said that the move, which will involve buying and renovating the Elks’ current home at 1945 Congress St., will allow the college to develop more of “an identity.”

But opposition from neighbors to likely increased traffic, the potential beginning of urban sprawl, and evening and weekend use of the building, and a February Planning Board deadlock that failed to send a clear recommendation to the Council and forced Husson and the Elks to propose several conditions to the text change.

On Monday, councilors voted on an amendment that presented some expected limitations on building size (no more than 24,000 square feet) and two new conditions: that new institutions of higher learning be located only on arterial roads in the R2 zone, and that they be required to demonstrate that they have sufficient land to expand before establishing operations in the zone.

“This amendment, particularly the additional condition … is what allows me to vote” in favor of Husson’s proposal, said Council John Anton. “This creates another barrier or hurdle – an appropriate hurdle – for new institutions to get approval.”

While some neighbors left the meeting arguing that the city had not given them the opportunity to voice their opposition to the zone change – city planner Alex Jaegerman said that neighbors within 500 feet of the property should have received post cards with information about public hearings – Husson and Elks representatives were pleased with the council’s vote.

“We couldn’t be happier,” said real estate broker Mark Malone, who represented the two organizations during the application process.

The rezone is “the first of many steps” as Husson and the Elks hammer out agreements to allow the University to move to Congress Street and the Elks to a smaller facility at 178 Warren Ave.

“Without this, nothing else could be done,” Malone said.

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