South Portland sets public hearing on Mill Creek zoning revisions

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The Planning Board will hold a public hearing next week on new zoning to accommodate the Mill Creek Master Plan, which was adopted last July.

The Tuesday, July 26, public hearing, to be held at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers, will precede any adoption of new zoning laws that aim to make the neighborhood between E Street and Broadway more more pedestrian-friendly, sustainable and downtown-like by increasing housing density.

Permitted uses would be expanded to include more commercial and residential flexibility. Changes to the Broadway Corridor district, for example, would allow businesses such as museums, art galleries, restaurants and breweries, buildings for religious practices, public or private educational facilities, and retail stores. 

As a means of improving sustainability in the area, the proposed zoning includes energy benchmarking provisions, which would create incentives for building owners to chart their properties’ monthly energy and water consumption. Those records would eventually be made public as a way to track overall carbon emissions and reduce energy use. 

If formally adopted, the standards wouldn’t go into effect until May 2018, and building owners wouldn’t be required to record their energy use until September 2019. 

The benchmarking provisions would apply to existing commercial buildings more than 5,000 square feet in size and to residential buildings with 10 or more units in Mill Creek.  The new standards would also apply to all municipal buildings and schools, and the data collected would be monitored by the city, Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser said in June. So far, those standards apply to about 30 properties in the neighborhood. 

Some Planning Board members had issues with the proposal when it was initially discussed in June.

Member Linda Boudreau, for example, said her concern wasn’t as much about the incentives to reduce carbon emissions as it was about making the information public. She said the requirement felt like “a huge personal intrusion.”

 Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.