SoPo Council zoning change allows housing to expand

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Councilors passed zoning amendments that could allow hundreds of new housing units to be built in the west end of the city.

At Monday’s meeting, the council unanimously voted to amend the zoning map and related text to allow new housing and apartment complexes at Sable Oaks and Clark’s Pond. Councilors Eben Rose and Brad Fox were absent for the 5-0 vote.

The map amendment would change the zoning at Clark’s Pond Parkway near Home Depot to a suburban commercial district (CS) zone, along with sections of property near the Sable Oaks golf course and Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks, at 200 Sable Oaks Dr. The amendment to the text removes the residential density limit, paving the way for more housing.

Maximum building heights would limit buildings to 86 feet and require buildings 60 feet or taller to be separated by 100 feet.

Vincent A. Maietta, president of V&E Enterprises, previously said at the April 9 council meeting that his company would like to build 260 market-rate apartments on 12 acres in Clark’s Pond near Home Depot. The units would be housed in four separate, six-story buildings, each containing 65 apartments. Maietta said each building would have 14 one-bedroom units and the remainder would be two-bedroom apartments. 

On Wednesday, Maietta said the market-rate apartments are designed to include such amenities as 9-foot ceilings, granite counter tops, a deck for each unit, air conditioning, recycling centers and garbage shoots.

City documents list the two parcels of land at Clark’s Pond at 300 and 450 Clark’s Pond Parkway.

During an interview Tuesday, Peter N. Connell of Ocean Properties Hotels Resorts & Affiliates, said the company doesn’t have any definite plans for the property yet, but would be looking at the project with a keener eye.

“We had no idea if this (the zoning amendment) would fly or not,” Connell said. “The new zoning makes some things possible. We have been working on this for some time. We will proceed now that the zoning change has been effectuated.”

Tex Haeuser, planning and development director, said the next step for developers would be to submit a site plan application to go before the planning board for review and a public hearing. On Tuesday, Haeuser said formal applications for new housing have not been filed with the city, although he was expecting paperwork from Maietta.

On Wednesday, Maietta told The Forecaster that developers are hoping to submit a proposal to the planning board by the end of the month. 

During the meeting, Haeuser called the zoning change an opportunity to increase the supply of housing and, at the same time, gain housing that won’t have to be subsidized by the city. 

South Portland is considering an inclusionary housing amendment that would require any new housing project of 20 or more units to set aside 10 percent as affordable, or pay $100,000 per unit to a city fund set aside for affordable housing. The new amendment would be retroactive to Feb. 27 and would apply to both housing projects. 

On Wednesday, Maietta said regardless if the city passes inclusionary zoning, his development will still go forward, but some of the amenities could be scaled back due to the extra cost. Maietta said developers had been working on the design for about 18 months, long before the city was trying to implement inclusionary housing.

Mayor Patti Smith called the CS zoning change a “forward-thinking zone change that allows flexibility for our city.”

Councilor Linda Cohen remarked that housing is needed and the two locations are about the two last places in the city where substantial housing can be built.

“It is our best chance at putting workforce housing in this area,” Cohen said.

Councilor Morgan called it a “very appropriate zone change.”

Morgan said his only concern is the level of noise in the area because of the proximity to the airport. The average decibel rating is 65 decibels at Sable Oaks which, he inferred, must peak over 100 decibels at certain times of the day.

Cohen noted builders have methods to make buildings more soundproof, while Maietta said his development is not in the airport’s flight path, and it is a quiet neighborhood. 

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter@melaniesochan.

South Portland city council unanimously passed amendments that allow new housing and apartment complexes to be proposed at Sable Oaks and Clark’s Pond.

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