PORTLAND — A proposal for a 180-day moratorium on development on the central waterfront will go to the City Council Monday, Dec. 17.
The moratorium could go into effect before supporters of a referendum to revise zoning in those areas turn in petition signatures to get the referendum on a ballot in 2019.
Referendum supporters have until the middle of next month to turn in 1,500 signatures of registered voters to the city clerk’s office. The zoning revisions would largely revert to language originally approved by voters in May 1987 that designated the seaside areas of Commercial Street and the eastern waterfront for marine use.
In a press release Tuesday, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said city staff will recommend the moratorium be passed as an emergency measure at the meeting.
Moratorium language was not available Tuesday morning, but Mayor Ethan Strimling and Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said they are ready to support it in hopes of averting the referendum, which also would restrict parking in the affected zones.
“Development is coming fast and furious; we need a way to control it,” Strimling said, adding he could support the referendum if it reaches a ballot.
Thibodeau represents District 2, which covers the central and western waterfronts. As chairman of the council’s Sustainability & Transportation Committee, he said he is concerned about parking provisions in the referendum, which include eliminating all parking used by non-marine businesses outside the waterfront zone within three years of passage.
The larger focal point of the referendum is a 93-room luxury hotel proposed by developer David Bateman at Fisherman’s Wharf, 184 Commercial St.
The 1.9-acre site sits within an overlay zone approved by the city that would allow conditional uses such as hotels, offices and residential development that voters banned in the original referendum. Those uses must be approved by councilors.
The overlay zone was created following the five-year period in which alterations to zoning approved by referendum are prohibited. The proposed zoning changes for the new referendum eliminate the overlay zone.
Bateman applied for the conditional rezoning in May 2017.
Council support for allowing a hotel on the seaside of Commercial Street is questionable.
“I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I do not support that use,” Strimling said. “A better path is for him to withdraw the application.”
Thibodeau also opposes the hotel as a conditional use.
“I have no interest in residential or hotel uses on that side of Commercial Street,” he said. “I feel strongly about that.”
On Tuesday, a representative for Bateman said the developer’s plans are evolving, but progressing.
“We’re spending our time on smart, community-based development, and that’s why we have invited the fishermen to help shape our project,” spokesman Mark Robinson said. “They can help us design practical solutions to the infrastructure challenges, access and parking issues that now face the waterfront and the fishing community.”
The city planned to hold its first public forum Tuesday on a master plan for Commercial Street and the working waterfront. The forum was scheduled for 6-8 p.m. at Rines Auditorium in the Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Way.
A 180-day moratorium on development in three Portland waterfront zones will get a first reading from city councilors on Dec. 17.