South Portland council gets 1st look at rules for historic preservation

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SOUTH PORTLAND — City Planner Justin Barker presented a proposed ordinance for historic preservation to the City Council Tuesday, but councilors delayed action on zoning in the West End and other agenda items due to the late hour.

After spending more than three hours discussing a federal lawsuit and consent agreement on alleged violations of the Clean Air Act by Global Partners LP, and with the clock approaching 11 p.m., councilors postponed almost all items on their April 16 agenda.

With a bond referendum for public safety buildings slated for June 11, councilors did vote to move the ordinance forward with an amendment to change the debt from around $48.6 million to $48.2 million. The proposal now goes to the Planning Board May 8.

In discussions about historic preservation rules, Barker said there are more than 400 structures in the city built prior to 1900. Buildings erected before 1940, he said, would be more likely to be considered.

The proposed historic adaptive reuse special exception ordinance aims to clearly identify historic resources in the community, create incentives for preservation, and delay demolition to discuss preservation options and/or obtain adequate documentation. The proposed ordinance would also serve as a blueprint for repurposing historic buildings for a different use than it was originally constructed for.

Barker said the Arts and Historic Preservation Commission would do the initial determination of historical significance of a house. If it qualifies, it would be recommended to the council; if not, the process ends. The ordinance includes information on permit delays as well to allow a 90-day period to seek voluntary preservation on some or all of the structure.

City Councilor Katherine Lewis asked if the committee had considered using 50 years or more as its guideline on historic homes.

“We have a tendency in this city to create legislation that we will intend to modify in one, two, three years or more. And we do it often enough that we’re not actually going back to look at the language,” she said. “If we do something I want it to be lasting.”

West End zone

Lewis moved to postpone discussion of the West End neighborhood district zone amendment, saying the topic needed more time for consideration than the council had available. Her motion was approved 5-2, with Councilors Susan Henderson and Deqa Dhalac opposed.

Under the proposed amendment, Avesta Westbrook Street One LP proposes to revise the front yard setback from 5 feet to zero feet for the West End Neighborhood Center District, according to supporting documents on the city website. The revisions are meant to “better align the setbacks with the city’s original intent of the recent West End Master Plan to promote the development of a new pedestrian-friendly urban village.”

Krysteana Scribner can be reached at kscribner@theforecaster.net or 780-9094. Follow her on Twitter: @krysteana2016.

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