SOUTH PORTLAND — The city may be one step closer to easing what some call its housing crisis.
City councilors Wednesday voted 6-0 for the first reading of a zoning amendment that would allow new housing and apartment complexes at Sable Oaks and Clarks Pond, although they rejected a change recommended by the Planning Board that would have allowed buildings up to 156 feet tall, or 14 stories.
Instead, they decided to maintain an existing limit of 86 feet, or eight stories.
Councilors also approved the first reading of a policy that would expand the ability of food trucks to operate on public property.
Although formal applications for new housing have not been filed with the city, Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser called changing the zoning “an effort to increase the housing stock in South Portland, which is needed. We have a shortage.”
Peter N. Connell of Ocean Properties Hotels Resorts & Affiliates said his company is hoping to build mixed-use housing near the Sable Oaks golf course and the Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks, at 200 Sable Oaks Drive. Connell stressed in an interview after the meeting that the company is in the early stages of planning and many decisions haven’t been made about the phased, mixed-use development.
Connell said there is a high probability the development would include some single-family housing.
Vincent A. Maietta, president of V&E Enterprises, said his company wants to build 260 market-rate apartments on 12 acres in Clarks Pond, near Home Depot. The units would be housed in four separate buildings, each containing 65 apartments. Maietta said each building would have 14 one-bedroom units and the remainder would be two-bedroom apartments.
“My job is to create things that are needed, and right now there is a huge housing crisis in South Portland and I would like to be a part of the solution,” Maietta said in an interview.
Maietta said there is a trail system at Clarks Ponds that goes through the property and there are already sidewalks on either side of the property leading to shopping areas.
After Councilors Eben Rose and Sue Henderson said made a failed motion to discuss the matter in a workshop, Haeuser told the council economic cycles change, and the city should take steps soon or the chance for additional housing could be lost.
Rose and Henderson said they wanted more assurance that the developments would meet residents’ needs.
Councilor Claude Morgan said the two developments would be in sync with the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
Haeuser said the developers can move forward with applications after the zoning amendments pass a second reading, scheduled for May 1.
“I think both developers understand the city has a strong interest in walk-ability.” Haeuser said.
Haeuser also spoke about the city’s plan to add an inclusionary zoning ordinance on projects of 20 units of more, which would require affordable housing units to make up at least 10 percent of the units unless developers pay a $100,000 per-unit penalty.
Haeuser said new housing should also keep rents down through the law of supply and demand.
Councilor Linda Cohen emphasized it is important to add to the housing stock, which she called a “hot commodity.” Cohen said adding more housing would force landlords to become more competitive.
Councilors voted 6-0 in favor of a proposed ordinance that would allow food trucks to operate more freely in the city.
The ordinance would allow licensed trucks to operate at Bug Light Park and the public boat launch, and Wainwright Athletic Complex – among other public places – from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., seven days a week.
Now, food trucks are generally not allowed on public property except during special events. There would be limitations placed on the operation of the trucks, which would preclude them from operating during some special events and within 500 feet of a licensed restaurant.
A second reading of the new rules will take place May 1.