Portland Planning Board to hold workshops on 2 housing plans

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PORTLAND — Two major housing developments on opposite sides of the city will be discussed at Planning Board workshops Thursday in City Hall.

At 4:30 p.m., the board will review the master development plan encompassing the former Rufus T. Deering Lumber Co. property at 383 Commercial St.

Following the workshop, board members will make a third review of a requested zoning change for residential development on more than 50 acres of land in the 1700 block of Westbrook Street. Most of the land was the former Camelot Farm.

Development of the former lumber yard, which is bordered by Commercial, High, York and Maple streets, would create 275 residential units and more than 22,000 square feet of retail space in a two-phase project by Deering Property Development, led by Joe Dasco.

Rufus Deering Lumber, a Commercial Street fixture since 1854, was sold to Eldredge Lumber on Nov. 30, 2016. The yard stayed open through the end of last year as existing stock was sold off, and operations were then shifted to Eldredge Lumber’s Presumpscot Street yard.

The 2.6 acres of land were sold to Dasco, who has been a partner on condominium projects in the India Street neighborhood.

The first phase would include construction of housing and retail space near the corner of Commercial and Maple streets, extending behind the building that is presently the home of the Baxter Academy.

On the farm

Camelot Holdings, represented by Michael Barton, on April 6 will present revised plans for the redevelopment of the former Camelot Farm, where Peter and Mary Rogers raised almost all their 11 children more than 50 years ago.

The land went on the market in 2015 with an asking price of $2.4 million.

Barton and his partners are seeking a zoning change to allow greater housing density on the land, and have purchased land next door at 1714 Westbrook St. as well. The revised plan also eliminates the possibility of a Flexible Housing Zone, a provision created after World War II to allow manufactured housing on lots.

A full site plan has not been created, but developers are hoping for 96 lots for single-family homes on the 45-acre former farm, and Barton said the land next door could be used for a mix of housing.

Barton said some of the land between the former farm and the Maine Turnpike will be conveyed to the city or Portland Trails for access to the Stroudwater River. Draft plans for developing Camelot Farm also preserves 17 acres of open space leading to the river.

The board will be considering the zoning change request only, as opposed to a site plan, but after workshops in January and February, opposition to the zoning change was strong.

Stroudwater residents and the Stroudwater Village Association Board of Directors have asked the Planning Board not to recommend the zoning change to the City Council, which is required to approve it.

In a Feb. 28 email to the Planning Board, SVA board members objected to a piecemeal approach to rezoning in the area. The board prefers a wider land use study, because the current approach has resulted in the rezoning of land at 1945 Congress St. for office buildings at the site of the Portland Elks Club and a nearby Verizon Wireless telecommunications facility.

The SVA and neighbors are also worried about potential traffic volume in a new subdivision of single-family homes, and whether developers can carry out the full project.

Barton said the revisions  in the zoning change request reflect the points brought up, and he is also working with Metro to see if more public transportation can be added to serve a development.

“We’ve been letting the process present itself as it unfolds,” he said. “We are hopeful with the takeaway from the first two workshops, we have it boiled down to a couple of things the new plans address.”

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

The Portland Planning Board will host a workshop April 6 on a master plan to develop the 383 Commercial St. property of the former Rufus Deering Lumber Co., seen March 31.

Phased plans to redevelop the former home of Rufus Deering Lumber Co. call for 275 new housing units spread across the 2.6-acre site at 383 Commercial St.

A requested zoning change to redevelop the former Camelot Farm at 1700 Westbrook St. in Portland, seen March 31, will be reviewed April 6 at a Planning Board workshop.

A new sketch of how a zoning change would affect the former Camelot Farm at 1700 Westbrook St. incoroprates adjacent land that developers purchased next to the Maine Turnpike for open space.

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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.