Subdivision construction begins at former Camelot Farm in Portland

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PORTLAND — Site work for a housing subdivison has begun on what was once the largest single-family residential property in the city.

“We are staying true to the initial vision and excited to get under way,” Michael Barton said July 20 about 98 single-family homes and 25 townhouses planned as Stroudwater Preserve on 55 acres of land at 1700-1714 Westbrook St., which had been largely comprised of Camelot Farm.

The phased project, approved by the city Planning Board on Nov. 28, 2017, will begin with 44 house lots, Barton said July 20. Boundaries for 10 lots have been measured, and site plans for seven of the 10 have been filed with city planners.

Unlike the subdivision plan, the individual site plans will not require Planning Board approval.

While the first seven houses will be built on spec, Barton and his partner, Nate Libby, are also working with David Marsden of The Bean Group to create a marketing plan. Barton said he expects to have an open house early next month.

Barton said the new housing features three- and four-bedroom homes of between 1,500 and 2,300 square feet.

“There are four different designs to start with,” he said. “We are trying to do a market test and start the project out with variety so it does not look cookie-cutter.”

About 25 acres will be left undeveloped and have public access as open space on land that descends to the Stroudwater River.

Bulding the single-family homes on the eastern portion of the property was originally expected to be the final phase of development, and neighbors including Mary Davis and Mikhu Anderson wondered why they were not notified by the city of the change in plans.

“Pursuant the Subdivision Ordinance … phasing sequencing is undertaken at the discretion of the applicant as long as the substance of the work does not deviate from the subdivision approval and other approvals are in order,” Planning Director Tuck O’Brien said in a July 13 email to Davis.

Barton said the shift was made to minimize the footprint of the work, which extends behind homes on Westbrook Street, for both neighborhood residents and future Stroudwater Preserve homeowners.

Barton said the shift in phases also means “there is no timetable on when the ranch house where Peter and Mary Rogers raised many of their 11 children will be torn down.”

The 45 acres surrounding the home was a working farm for more than 50 years. Mary Rogers died in January 2015, and the property was placed on the market later that year.

Barton and Libby also bought 10 adjacent acres bordered by the Maine Turnpike for the project’s 25 townhouses.

Redevelopment of what was the largest parcel of open land in the city wasn’t approved without a contentious process that played out in City Hall, at polling places and in Cumberland County Superior Court.

Neighbors objected to the plans that hinged on rezoning the land to allow for smaller house lots. On July 24, 2017, the zonng change won narrow City Council approval.

In October 2017, Davis and six others sued the city, contending councilors and Planning Board members had erred in several ways when considering and approving the zoning changes. The suit was later voluntarily withdrawn.

The rezoning also led Davis and neighbors to submit a referendum question that would have amended the approval process for zoning changes so that written objections from abutters within 500 feet of proposed new zoning could block the changes.

The question was defeated last November.

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

Site work is under way July 18 on land at 1700 Westbrook St. in Portland, where the former Camelot Farm will become the Stroudwater Preserve subdivision.

As depicted in this sketch, the first seven houses built at Stroudwater Preserve in Portland will feature four different styles with varied sizes.

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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.