GORHAM – South Gorham is open for business.

The Town Council decided unanimously Tuesday night to approve rezoning 24 acres at the intersection of routes 22 and 114 to allow the development of a commercial district.

Joseph Murphy, the real estate broker for the property, said he will start advertising the land today. The property owner, Hans Hansen, said negotiations have been under way for a while.

“We’ve been talking to numerous people that are interested,” said Hansen, who has tried for years to get rural and residential land in South Gorham rezoned. Previous proposals were rejected, by the council in 2001 and by voters in 2004.

But Hansen got little resistance from the public in a hearing before Tuesday’s vote. Two of his neighbors asked the council if they could rezone their land to allow commercial development.

Four other nearby landowners have already requested the same changes that Hansen was awarded, and are in the approval process.

Restaurants, retail stores, convenience stores with gas pumps, day-care centers, offices, banks and funeral homes are allowed under Hansen’s contract with the town. Some industries, such as laboratories and bakeries, are also permitted, if first approved by the council.

Hansen said most of the businesses would take advantage of vehicles that are already coming through the intersection, where commuter traffic backs up.

He said the limits on the size of the new buildings, including 7,000 square feet for retail stores, would prevent a significant increase in traffic in the area.

Councilors said Tuesday that the proposal was consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan, which earmarks South Gorham as a future business district. The contract zone, which calls for pitched roofs and landscaping, ensures that development will be attractive, said Councilor Michael Phinney.

“We’re trying to keep a village character with a New England flavor to it,” he said.

Considering that there are several requests for contract zones in the area, Councilor Noah Miner said approving the changes piecemeal might not be the most efficient approach.

“Maybe we need to start thinking bigger,” he said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: [email protected]