Portland City Council to discuss possible zoning changes

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PORTLAND — City councilors in a July 10 workshop will review four land-use and housing initiatives.

A zoning change request for residential development near the Westbrook city line, an update on redesign of Congress Square, zoning changes to to create more workforce housing, and a West Commercial Street zoning change to enhance waterfront industrial development are on the agenda.

Councilors will not vote on any items, and public comment will not be accepted during the workshop.

A request by Camelot Holdings to create a hybrid R-3 and open-space zone on land at 1700-1714 Westbrook St. is expected to face a public hearing and council vote on July 24, after the request was given a June 5 first reading.

Developers are proposing 96 house lots and additional multi-family homes on more than 50 acres of land, with at least 15 acres set aside as open space with public access. Forty-five acres of the land is Camelot Farm, owned by the Rogers family for more than 50 years. It went on the market in October 2015.

Neighbors have objected to the increased housing density in the R-3 zone.

The redevelopment is also the focal point of a referendum petition drive that could block any requested zoning change if 25 percent of registered voters who live or own property within 500 feet object before the request is approved by the City Council. 

The rejection could be overturned if the parties seeking the change gather supporting signatures from 51 percent of the people who live or own land within 1,000 feet of the area in question.

Cold storage

City officials looking to spur development along the western waterfront from the Casco Bay Bridge to Cassidy Point have proposed changes in the Waterfront Port Development Zone to allow cold storage as a conditional use, with increased base and conditional building height allowances.

The linchpin in the effort is construction of a cold storage warehouse at the International Marine Terminal, where container ship business has taken hold and expanded since 2013.

In August 2015 Americold Logistics, which operates a warehouse at 165 Read St., won a state Department of Transportation bid to construct the warehouse, but the company is not seeking the zoning change.

The new zoning was reviewed June 27 in a Planning Board workshop. The building heights proposal would cap heights at a maximum of 70, and allow a minimum height of 50 feet, 5 feet more than currently allowed in the warehouse area.

The zoning changes also incorporate setbacks and limit the number of buildings on parcels along West Commercial Street to avoid massing of structures. Business owner Phineas Sprague Jr. said May 18 the changes could also allow him to expand Portland Yacht Services in a manner that best fits the nature of the business.

West End neighbors have objected to the cold storage plan drafts. They are concerned it would block views and be a springboard for Americold to move all its operations to the waterfront.


City planning staff is looking to expand opportunities for affordable housing by expanding incentives in more than a dozen designated zones. The zones are spread throughout the city, including downtown on the peninsula.

If enacted, the zoning changes would allow increased density and building heights on a sliding scale determined by how many new units would be set aside as low-income or workforce housing.

The proposed changes, which were recommended by the council Housing Committee, also add incentives for lot sizes and setbacks in the planned residential unit developments now allowed in several zones. Those incentives would apply if 50 percent of the units are designated for low income and workforce residents.

A Planning Board public hearing on the changes is scheduled for July 11.

Park progress

The discussion on Congress Square is an update from the city Public Art Committee on redesign efforts, including the public art by sculptor Sarah Sze.

At its June 21 meeting, the committee reviewed Sze’s proposal for three works of art in the park bordered by Congress and High streets. Two reflective, stainless steel pieces could be installed along Congress Street, with the larger one placed near the spot where the former Union Station clock tower now sits.

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

Councilors meeting July 10 are expected to review redesign details for Congress Square, including public art form sculptor Sarah Sze

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.