Seven years ago, Eddie and Sharon Zelonish moved to a small cape on Torrey Street in Portland’s Back Cove neighborhood, leaving behind a much larger and nicer home on the other side of the city. But the new house came with something they wanted for their 3-year-old boy: walking distance to a “giant piece of woods.”

Those woods – an ad hoc neighborhood park, complete with wooden bridges that crisscross wetlands and a stream – are on private property, zoned for light industrial use, and now under contract for purchase by an unknown buyer for an undisclosed purpose.

The 12.75-acre site, known by residents as “Canco Woods,” is situated off Canco Road just a block northeast of Read Street. It’s encircled on three sides by single-family homes and a senior housing complex.

Central Maine Power is located across the street on Canco Road. The property is owned by Union Water & Power, a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, which also owns Central Maine Power.

The utility company years ago bought the parcel as a potential site for expansion. But the company doesn’t need the property anymore, so it is selling it, said Central Maine Power spokesman John Carroll.

CB Richard Ellis/The Boulos Co. has the parcel listed for $350,000. The broker, Drew Sigfridson, said it is under contract but he legally cannot disclose the identity of the prospective buyer. Permitted uses in the zone include light industrial businesses, such as a warehouse, print shop, car wash or offices.

Victoria Kostadinova, who lives on Torrey Street, said she was told by several neighbors when she moved to the street last fall that the property was not going be developed.

She said residents never had a chance to organize after the parcel was put on the market recently. The for-sale sign was up for three days.

“The sign went up, and boom the sign went down,” she said.

“We wanted a chance to buy it,” said her husband, Ben Bernard. “This is a big part of what draws people to this neighborhood over another.”

The lack of information about the prospective buyer is adding to people’s anxiety.

About 70 people packed the cafeteria at Ocean Avenue Elementary on Tuesday to hear what City Councilor Cheryl Leeman had to say.

Although Leeman did not provide details, she said the property would be developed on the portion of the lot near Canco Road and that she expects there will be an adequate buffer between homes and any new business built there. She was hopeful that part of the trail system could be preserved.

She noted that the city owns a utility easement through the center of the parcel and that no structures can be built on the easement.

If the pending sale falls through, Bernard told the crowd, residents should raise money to buy the parcel. The crowd applauded.

Wade Fleming, a 31-year-old real estate broker who lives on Hall Street, told Leeman that the limited value of any new development would pale in comparison to the recreational value enjoyed by nearby residents. He asked Leeman why the city couldn’t step in and preserve the parcel.

“They are private property owners, and they have the right to develop their property,” she replied.

 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: TomBellPortland