PORTLAND — The Planning Board on Tuesday night unanimously approved a proposal for a bowling alley in the Bayside neighborhood, but tabled a vote on an overlay zone that would contain future growth of the Waynflete School in the city’s West End.
Plans calls for the former Skillful Vending warehouse at 58 Alder St. to be converted into a 12-lane, big-ball bowling alley with a second-floor restaurant and lounge.
Charles Mitchell, owner of Bowl Portland, said he expects construction on the approximately $1 million project to begin in late December or early January and take about four months to complete.
Mitchell and his co-applicant, state Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, sought several waivers for their project. The board granted their request to keep most of the asphalt on the site, rather than increasing the landscaping, but denied a request to exempt the project from having to install two street lights. Cost and pedestrian safety were considerations in both requests.
“(Heavy landscaping) would provide places for people to hide, sleep and become a nuisance and all of that goes against what we’re trying top do,” architect David Matero said.
The plan calls for only seven on-site parking spots; another 27 spaces will be shared with another business on a nearby lot. Bowl Portland proposed adding a mid-block crosswalk for pedestrians parking in the shared lot, but the board referred that proposal to the sidewalk review committee.
Although Matero said building mounted lights would provide enough light for pedestrians, board Chairman David Silk said the street lights, which cost between $7,000 to $10,000 per fixture, are an important component of the city’s Bayside redevelopment plan that took four years to draft and institute.
“You have these standards and this is what the standards call for,” Silk said. “Right or wrong, this is what they adopted.”
Robert Spinella, president of the Bayside Redevelopment Corp. and former chairman of the Bayside Neighborhood Association, supported the project, saying it could make the neighborhood more vibrant. “This is a very welcome project for Bayside,” he said.
In other business, the board voted 6-1 to table a proposed overlay zone that would guide and contain future growth of Waynflete School, a private school at 360 Spring St. The overlay zone would allow potential school expansion projects to be permitted uses, rather than conditional uses that typically receive more scrutiny.
The decision to table action on the proposal was reached after more than three hours of discussion and testimony from school officials, parents and neighbors.
Board members said they could not support the overlay zone because it included four residential units: 26 and 27 Storer St. and 10 and 12 Greyhurst St. Although the school does not own the buildings, it identified them as potential areas for future administrative offices and living quarters for faculty and staff.
Waynflete officials said the residential units were identified in the plan to allow the school to provide a better education for its students, not expand its enrollment, which it expects to remain at about 552 students over the next couple of decades. Additional spaces needs were identified as part of the schools accreditation in 2000.
Board members said the school has not demonstrated the need to include the residential properties in the zone. Some contended that future space needs could be accommodated within the existing confines of the five-acre West End campus, or by better utilizing the school’s 40-acre Fore River complex, which contains athletic fields.
The existing five-acre property on Spring Street could accommodate educational programming needs, but school officials said it could not handle additional parking, open space and playgrounds.
People who spoke in support of the overlay zone with few exceptions tended to be Waynflete trustees and parents. Opponents tended to be residents unaffiliated with the school, who argued the zone would eventually eliminate much-needed affordable housing in the West End and destroy the historic and cultural fabric of the neighborhood.
The board will take up the overlay zone again at its Dec. 8 meeting, where public comment will be limited to only the new components of the overlay zone, if any are proposed.
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org