Portland Planning Board to hold hearing on Camelot Farm rezoning

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PORTLAND — Zoning changes sought to redevelop Camelot Farm, the largest parcel of open space in the city, will have a Planning Board public hearing and recommendation in the near future.

Board members did not set a hearing date at their April 13 workshop on the changes for 1700-1714 Westbrook St., but all present signaled they favored the new zoning.

“I think this is a very good opportunity to do some planning,” board member Carol Morrissette said of converting the current R-1 zoning on the land to R-3 and Recreational Open Space zones.

Specific site plans for the land will be developed if the zoning change is granted. Farm neighbors and the Stroudwater Village Association remain opposed to the zoning change, which must be approved by the City Council following a recommendation from the Planning Board.

“Are we making the zone changes for the developer or because it is property that should be developed at some time?” Partridge Circle resident Bill Dobrowolski asked in what was the final workshop on the new zoning.

The workshop was actually a continuation of one started April 6, to allow more public comment. Speakers took 10 minutes, repeating worries about increased traffic, the ability of developers to be able to carry out the project, and the environmental effects of adding more than 100 new homes to nearly 50 acres of land.

Michael Scanell, also of Partridge Circle, said basement flooding is already a problem in the neighborhood and expected it would happen in the new development, too.

Michael Barton of Camelot Holdings and his consulting engineer, Will Savage, said they are confident about providing enough protection for the environment and new homeowners.

Once the home of the Rogers family, Camelot Farm sits on 45 acres between Westbrook Street and the Stroudwater River. Developers have promised at least 15 acres will remain public open space, while 96 single-family house lots from 6,500 square feet to 20,000 square feet will be built.

Camelot Holdings is also ready to buy 13.5 adjacent aces at 1714 Westbrook St., where an easement for public river access and multiple-family housing are envisioned.

Barton said April 13 that the developers will commit to the easement at 1714 Westbrook St. by placing it in escrow until the sale closes.

“We are guaranteeing the 15 acres (of open space) at this point, it will probably go up to 25 acres when it is done,” Savage said. Development plans are expected to take five years.

The development time frame was a reason board member Lisa Whited said she could support the new zoning.

“It is going to be a transformation, but it is going to be rather gradual,” she said.

Morrisette said the present R-1 zoning could allow construction of 84 homes, without the restrictions on lot sizes a zoning change would bring.

“I think this is a reasonable approach that has been given an awful lot of thought,” she said.

Eugenia O’Brien asked board members to consider the neighborhood and the land’s environmental value as grassland, noted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

“It seems to be an ongoing situation that neighbors get blindsided,” O’Brien said.

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

Land on the former Camelot Farm bordered by the Stroudwater River in Portland would be protected by an ROS zone, with at least 15 acres set aside for public use, developers said April 13.Revised plans seek to change land at 1700 and 1714 Westbrook St. from R-1 zoning to R-3 and ROS for more housng density with open space.

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.