The Portland Planning Board voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the City Council to reconsider the city’s ban on building new residential units near the waterfront, which has been forbidden for more than two decades.

a 7-0 vote, the board said that putting housing units in the central zone of Commercial Street, while staying away from the actual edges of the piers, is not necessarily incompatible with marine uses, which are now the only ones permitted at street level there.

Allowing residential development may or may not be a wise policy decision. Certainly it is reasonable to discuss it at whatever length councilors deem appropriate, while also permitting substantial opportunities for public input into the discussion.

But the decision to ban housing along with other forms of development was imposed by a referendum in 1987, and one of the major spurs for the vote was the placement of housing units on Chandler’s Wharf.

While the council is set to act Monday on zoning revisions that would permit non-marine commercial uses (such as stores, restaurants and offices) on half of the ground floor space of waterfront buildings, putting housing there is a separate issue that has not been the subject of much public discussion.

Before they proceed, councilors should commit to holding off on a decision until the views of the people can be adequately taken into account. And if people want another referendum, that would fit comfortably into the history of this issue.