South Gorham is changing.

After Tuesday, it could quickly start changing a lot more.

Restaurants, retail stores, banks and gas stations are among the businesses that could pop up around the intersection of routes 22 and 114 if the town accepts requests from several property owners to rezone their land.

About half of the land in question – 24 acres off Route 22, also called County Road – is owned by Hans Hansen. A public hearing and vote by the Town Council on Tuesday are the final hurdles before he can start developing the business park that would be allowed in his proposed contract zone.

Four nearby property owners, who submitted requests for the same zone changes as Hansen, are awaiting review by the town’s Planning Board.

To keep from stirring up any last-minute resistance, Hansen last week declined to talk about the proposal until after the council vote.

“It’s great for Gorham, and that’s about all I want to say at this point,” he said.

Hansen has spearheaded past attempts to turn that section of South Gorham into a commercial hub. In 2001, his proposal for the mixed-use South Gorham Neighborhood District received a negative recommendation from the Planning Board, was railed against by neighbors at a packed public hearing and was ultimately rejected by the Town Council.

He rallied to put the question out to voters, and, at a referendum in 2004, a proposal to rezone 72 acres in South Gorham from residential to commercial was soundly defeated.

This time, Hansen, who has a unanimous recommendation from the Planning Board in hand, hasn’t met as much opposition.

Tom Ellsworth, president of the Gorham Economic Development Corp., said opponents of the previous proposals wanted to wait for more details to emerge from the Maine Turnpike Authority’s East-West Corridor Study, a plan to build a bypass around the busy intersection, before developing the area around it.

With the study – and the economy – at a standstill, Ellsworth said residents are now more concerned with bringing big taxpayers into town.

Darcy Nicely, who lives across the street from Hansen, offered a different explanation for the change of heart. “I think people are just burnt out,” she said.

Still, Nicely isn’t about to give up the rural character of the neighborhood, where her family has lived for more than a century, without a fight. She’ll be at the meeting Tuesday and hopes to have some company.

Nicely suspects the neighbors who are following in Hansen’s footsteps don’t have the sentimental attachment to their land that she does.

Mike Ordway, who built his house on County Road more than 30 years ago, said he and his wife, Sally, have simply accepted the fate of their neighborhood. They are among the other property owners asking for contract zones, along with Dennis and Demetria Chadbourne, Albert Frick and Mary McFarland.

During the past decade, businesses have been creeping westward up Route 22 toward their homes. Along with O’Donal’s Nursery and King’s Farm Market, there’s a VIP auto parts store, an animal hospital and, most recently, a Mercy Hospital primary care clinic that opened in Hansen’s former farm market in 2009.

“The writing has been on the wall,” Ordway said.

Ellsworth wouldn’t reveal what businesses have been talking to Hansen, but, if the council approves his proposal, he said he expects a deal to be reached within a month.

“We’re pretty darn sure that once this gets done there’s going to be quick interest in this property,” Ellsworth said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at:

[email protected]