South Portland zoning proposals aim to protect Knightville's residential character

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council Thursday was scheduled to review proposed zoning amendments for Knightville.

Planning Director Tex Haeuser said the amendments could result in “slightly” more dense residential neighborhoods flanking Ocean Street, but primarily aim to protect residents from the construction of large commercial buildings on their property lines.

Council meetings typically are held every Tuesday, but because of this week’s special election, the meeting was rescheduled for Dec. 13, after The Forecaster’s deadline.

Haeuser said the amendments were developed by the city’s Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee and include changes to Knightville’s Village Residential district, which includes the neighborhood’s letter streets, and the Village Commercial district, which runs along Ocean Street.

The committee has been reviewing each neighborhood in the city and created the Knightville Fore & Aft Committee to solicit input from residents, visitors and investors.

The last in a series of public forums to gather insight was held on Nov. 15.

Haeuser said the committee will eventually tackle various aspects of development, such as parking and infrastructure, but for now is focusing on zoning.

Portions of Knightville also lie in the Commercial district, but because the zone supports condos and marina facilities at the northern end of the peninsula, the committee chose not to recommend any changes to the district at this time, according to Haeuser. 

The basic thinking behind the Village Residential zoning amendments, Haeuser said, was to “bring the space and bulk requirements closer to the design of the original subdivision … while being careful to maintain needed protections for abutters.”

Amendments include allowing a minimum of two residential units per lot and then another unit for each additional 10th of an acre, and reducing the minimum lot size from 7,500 to 2,500 square feet.

Haeuser said this could make for more built-up residential lots, but noted that as the ordinance stands, residents are allowed a second building as an accessory dwelling unit. 

It also means, however, that some properties with multiple units – such as several of the three- and six-unit apartment buildings – will still be nonconforming relative to density.

The committee felt that two units per lot strikes a reasonable density balance, according to the CPIC report.

Reducing required off-street parking, from two spaces for detached single-family homes and 1.5 spaces for most multi-family units, to one space per unit is also being considered. 

Under the proposal, the maximum amount of a lot allowed for a main building would remain at 33 percent, but up to 40 percent would be allowed when counting sheds, garages, and other outlying buildings. The rear yard setback of 15 feet would also be maintained, but the front yard setback would be reduced from 8 feet to 5 feet, the side yard for principal buildings from 15 feet to 6 feet, and side and rear setbacks for accessory buildings from 6 feet to 3 feet.

In the Village Commercial zone, Haeuser said the amendments would act as an incentive for current property owners to make investments in their buildings and properties by enabling small- to medium-scale development.

“(That) is a way to both provide additional housing, services, and employment while also making it more difficult for outside developers to aggregate the now more valuable properties for larger scale redevelopments,” Haeuser said in a memo to the council. 

Among various amendments proposed is one that would require any building or portion of a building within 50 feet of the residential zone be no taller than 40 feet – the residential zone’s limit –  rather than current zoning’s 50 foot limit. 

Another amendment would add live-work units as an allowed as a first-floor use, and one would add a maximum total building footprint of 10,500 square feet per property to discourage large new developments, such as one the size of Mill Cove Landing at 72 Ocean St., according to Haeuser. 

Contrary to previous proposals, the committee is also now recommending that the Commercial zone not be expanded into the letter streets or replaced with a Village Extension zone. It also does not recommend changing the limit of 24 residential units per acre, but allowing a minimum of eight units per lot.

The committee also fielded a request from the owner of 85 E St. to adjust the zoning to create an option for changing his medical/office building to a multifamily unit. Under the proposed residential zoning, the building would be allowed to include four residential units – two more than under the existing rules.

However, the owner said the building could comfortably accommodate eight residential units if it were converted entirely into an apartment or condominium building.

So, the proposal for consideration is to allow a building in the residential zone to include more residential units than the number shown in the zone’s maximum residential density table if the applicant and site meet certain requirements – for example, by submitting a site plan prepared by a surveyor showing how many buildable lots the parcel could legally be divided into.

Finally, the committee has proposed remedies to conflicting regulations of dual-lots, which are split between the commercial and residential zones.

Haeuser said if the proposed Knightville zoning amendments are generally acceptable to the council, staff will revise the draft based on council feedback and then schedule a Planning Board public hearing.

After that, the board will vote on a recommendation and the item could either come back for another council workshop or proceed to the first of two readings.

If eventually adopted at a second reading, the new zoning provisions would not go into effect until 20 calendar days from the date of adoption, Haeuser said. 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

The South Portland City Council was scheduled to consider recommended amendments to Knightville’s zoning ordinance during a workshop Thursday night. 

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