Stroudwater residents sue Portland over Camelot Farm zoning

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PORTLAND — Zoning changes in the Stroudwater neighborhood, which already face a Nov. 7 referendum, are also being challenged in Cumberland County Superior Court.

A nine-count complaint filed Aug. 23 by neighbors of Camelot Farm at 1700 Westbrook St. asks the court to set aside the changes from R-1 and R-2 zones to a combination of R-3 and rural open space.

While the city has yet to respond to the lawsuit, attorneys representing developer Michael Barton and Stroudwater Development Properties on Oct. 6 filed as intervenors on behalf of the city.

Stroudwater Development Properties plans to build 98 single-family homes and 25 townhouses on 55 acres at 1700-1714 Westbrook St. Attorney Jason Howe said Monday the developers have the legal standing to help contest the suit.

Another 10 acres at 1714 Westbrook St. are not part of the suit.

Plaintiffs Michael and Miriam Scannell, Raymond and Alina Waterhouse, Eugenia O’Brien, Mary Davis and Antionette DeMarco argue errors were made by both the Planning Board and City Council. The changes were approved by councilors by a 5-4 vote July 24.

Developers first proposed a zoning change to reduce the minimum size of house lots in July 2016, and the request was reviewed at three Planning Board workshops.

The third workshop was held without proper 10-day public notice and the dates were mixed up, which “prevented Stroudwater residents from effectively participating,” plaintiffs said.

Plaintiffs also claim plans for how the property could be redeveloped in an R-1 zone, with acreage set aside as developers intend in the mix of new zones, were never introduced in workshops. They say the plans were only made available to the public a day before the Planning Board recommended the zoning change at its May 9 meeting.

The new zoning is incompatible with past and current city comprehensive plans, plaintiffs claim, since the prior one specifically listed Stroudwater as an R-1 zone, and the revised plan is “a list of vague and contradictory aspirations and fails to establish goals and priorities.”

Because developers were “given unlimited time to make specific and detailed presentations on the rezoning proposal,” the plaintiffs also argue the rezoning became an illegal contract zone. That process was also flawed and biased toward the developer, and resulted in an “arbitrary and capricious rezoning of the neighborhood,” the suit says.

Attorneys Durward Parkinson and Benjamin McCall, on behalf of Stroudwater Development Properties, argue the plaintiffs lack legal standing, failed to file in a timely manner, have not stated a claim for the basis of relief by the court, and have not exhausted administrative remedies from the city.

Development plans based on the new zoning are now under review by the Planning Board. Barton said he hopes construction on the first phase can begin next spring.

The new zoning also depends on a city referendum Nov. 7 that asks voters to approve allowing requested zoning changes to be blocked by objections from 25 percent of the registered voters who live within 500 feet of an area in question.

Davis, whose home abuts Camelot Farm, wrote the referendum, which is retroactive to May 15. She has filed the needed number of objections to block the new zoning if the referendum passes.

Last month, Barton said he intends to develop the land even if zoning reverts to its prior state, but prefers to work within the R-3 and rural open space zoning.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Abutters are suing Portland to overturn new zoning at to land at 1700 Westbrook St.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.
  • ForThePeopleByThePeople

    This lawsuit and the zoning initiative put forth by this same group of people is a symptom of our broken system. If the City Council continues to push an aggressive economic development policy that disproportionately benefits the capitalist class at the expense of the working class, we will see more and more of this kind of push-back. However, giving more voice to a small number of people is not the answer. No one person, or privileged group of people, should ever decide how property is zoned in our city. Just because you purchase a nice home set amidst big trees and sprawling
    lawns, is no guarantee that it will stay that way forever. That is part of the risk in your investment. And it sure as heck doesn’t give you the right to deny others a place to live, period. Democratic Socialism demands that municipalities install citizen boards, program councils, and citizen assemblies that would be open to all – not just a few concerned neighbors – and would be tasked with
    making decisions about budgets, services and planning for workforce, affordable and low-income housing. Let’s stop being so selfish and self-serving in our politics. We all must learn to live together, and find meaning and purpose in our community so we can thrive. Join the DSA and find out what true democracy looks like.