Portland neighbors wary about religious center's growth

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

PORTLAND — A single-family home in the Rosemont section of the city could be redesignated as a place of religious assembly.

Chabad of Maine, part of an Orthodox Jewish, Hasidic movement known for its outreach, is based at 11 Pomeroy St. For nearly a year, it has considered seeking the conditional use change in its neighborhood.

The change will require Planning Board approval.

Rabbi Moshe Wilansky on Sept. 5 said the change will not mean an increase in activities, and said he wants to continue being a good neighbor.

The conditional use change is needed to accurately reflect the increase to more than 15 worshippers at the site, which also offers lodging and summer camps. The home is in an R-3 zone, where places of assembly are allowed as a conditional use.

According to the application, more than 15 worshippers regularly attend services at Chabad of Maine, which is also expanding to two floors totaling 1,000 square feet.

The change of use will also require Chabad to add eight more parking spaces to meet parking standards, according to the application filed by Sevee & Mahar Engineers.

“However, even with the growth in worshippers there is no anticipated increase in impact to the surrounding street system, as attendees are prohibited from bringing a vehicle on days when attendance is at its highest,” the application notes.

While Wilansky said relations with immediate neighbors are good, Chabad and its expansion have drawn objections from residents of the Redlon Park subdivision which sits behind the Pomeroy Street property.

Jeff Emerson, who is treasurer of the neighborhood association, said his communications with city officials have reflected his own concerns. What he worries about is the city allowing incremental growth by Chabad that is not consistent with the residential setting.

“Chabad has been engaged in religious services, kosher meals, lodging and summer camps as evidenced by its website,” Emerson said in a Sept. 5 email. “None of these activities was specifically permitted by the city. All of these activities are examples of incrementalism.”

Wilansky bought the property in 2004, according to the deed, and the home was completed in 2015.

While objecting to allowing the incremental growth, Emerson also said he was concerned because the religious place of assembly designation would make the site tax exempt. It is now valued at $574,000, according to city records, and taxed at more than $12,900.

“Which means that, as it grows in size and services, my neighbors and I are paying for it,” he said.

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

Rabbi Moshe Wilansky of Chabad of Maine is seeking a zoning change to make this home at 11 Pomeroy St. in Portland a religious place of assembly.

0
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.