South Portland likely to re-examine Knightville planning

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A new master plan may guide the future of Knightville.

Six options were floated at a City Council workshop Monday night, as officials consider a new effort to weigh the interests of residents, developers and advocates of affordable housing.

In a memo to the City Council, Planning Director Tex Haeuser said “the purpose of tonight’s workshop is to review and consider requests made in recent years for possible zoning amendments in the Knightville area, both for the Ocean Street corridor in general, and for the South Portland Housing Authority’s (SPHA) redevelopment proposal in particular.”

SPHA this week killed a proposal for an affordable housing project on Ocean Street between B and C streets, after deciding it could not afford to build the project if the city does not loosen the area’s housing density restrictions.

“Staff will help provide council and members of the public with an understanding of the previous and existing zoning in the Ocean Street corridor of Knightville, give an assessment of whether perceived problems posed by the existing zoning warrant any Council action, and review existing language in the Comprehensive Plan relative to the Knightville neighborhood,” Haeuser said.

During the meeting, Haeuser said the city might want to consider several scenarios when making recommendations for growth and development in the neighborhood.

They range from doing nothing; retaining the Village Commercial Zone, but removing the density limit; creating a conditional zone for a South Portland Housing Authority project in Knightville, or hiring a consultant and having the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee work on a master plan.

Many residents, who were there to state their objections to the South Portland Housing Development Corp.’s affordable housing proposal for Ocean Street, said they supported a new master plan.

C Street resident Eva Goetz was one who told the council the community needs “a full projected … plan.”

City Manager Scott Morelli said Tuesday that councilors are not inclined to make any zoning changes in the neighborhood in the near future.

Morelli said councilors are inclined to come up with a master plan, but said he was first tasked to come back to the council with an estimate of the staff and financial resources that would make it happen.

Morelli said the West End master plan, which is now being done by Greater Portland Council of Governments, cost $30,000. He estimated that the Knightville plan would cost less, but would take up about the same amount of staff time.

Morelli said the council is unlikely to meet on the question before late summer. If approved and funding is secured, the Knightville plan would probably not begin to take shape until sometime in 2018, after the West End project is completed and city staff is available.

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

Ocean Street in Knightville, where South Portland continues to wrestle with demand for housing and the desire to maintain a village atmosphere.

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