A developer has requested a zoning change for Peaks Island that would make way for 12 to 14 condominiums, a sign that Portland’s housing crunch may spread to the offshore community of mostly single-family homes.

The proposal for the property at 2 Island Ave. comes from Kevin Carter, who lives in North Carolina but has family ties to Peaks Island. Although the project details are in flux, the zoning change Carter is seeking could result in one of the tallest, densest developments on the island.

Carter has filed his request with the city at the confluence of two trends in Greater Portland – a squeeze on rental units and a surge in new housing construction.

“It creates an opportunity to create some affordable housing in and around the Portland area with an easy commute, albeit a boat ride rather than a car ride,” Carter said.

The largest of Portland’s islands, Peaks has about 900 year-round residents, and at least three times that many in the summer. Some residents worry that Carter’s project would compromise views of Casco Bay, demolish what was once a beloved bowling alley and open a door for undesired development. Others, however, welcome the opportunity for affordable housing that would be available to four-season residents.

The proposed condo development is across the street from where Aaiyn Foster has lived for 19 years. She said she welcomes a discussion of the island's zoning. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The proposed condo development is across the street from where Aaiyn Foster has lived for 19 years. She said she welcomes a discussion of the island’s zoning. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“I imagine that like the rest of the city, opinion would be somewhat divided,” said City Councilor Belinda Ray, whose district includes the island. “But I do know there are many people on Peaks Island who want to make sure that the community remains affordable to families, and for those people, some zoning changes might be desirable.”

FITTING IN WITH ISLAND CHARACTER

Carter’s family has long owned a home on Oak Avenue, and his father still lives on the island in the summer. When Carter bought the family property from his uncles two years ago, he began to reconnect with the island where he spent summer vacations as a child.

Carter has a background in residential and commercial development, and began planning his condos when he learned about the area’s demand for housing. In June, he signed a purchase-and-sale agreement for a three-unit house at 2 Island Ave., near his family’s property on the western side of the island. He said his goal would be to sell to people who would live on Peaks Island all year.

“It’s not really about the profitability and making lots of money,” Carter said. “It’s about trying to help the island out.”

However, the parcel is in an island business zone, which prohibits multifamily homes with more than four units. So Carter has asked the city to amend the zoning code to allow as many as 14 units in one building. Without that density, he argued, the price of the condos would be prohibitive for the type of buyers he is trying to attract – in particular, families with children. He also has requested to increase the maximum building height from 35 feet to 47 feet, reduce the amount of parking required and shrink the necessary setback from property lines.

“It’s more expensive to build on the island, of course,” he said. “You really need the larger number of units in order to make the units affordable.”

Because he’s not sure if the zoning change will be approved, Carter said he hasn’t drawn up final plans, decided on the number of condos or set their prices. But he promised the project wouldn’t diverge from the island’s typical aesthetic.

“It’s not going to stick out like a sore thumb,” he said.

Carter’s planned development is across the street from the home at the corner of Island and New Island avenues where Arthur Fink and Aaiyn Foster have lived for 19 years.

“That’s a pretty severe set of changes,” Fink said.

“There’s the concern about scale and character,” he added. “Peaks Island is a community of one-, two- and a few three-story houses.”

They also questioned whether Carter could preserve the existing home there. It was a bowling alley operating into the 1920s, they said, a fixture on a boardwalk near a hot air balloon launch and a carousel.

Carter said the building would be challenging to renovate, but he has not yet decided whether he’ll build new.

“Are we willing to evaporate history?” Foster asked.

Nonetheless, the couple welcomed a discussion about zoning within the island community, which Foster said she hopes will reaffirm the zoning as it currently exists.

“It’s a grand opportunity to be clear on our boundaries,” Foster said. “We have lived by those boundaries. They have been adequate.”

ZONING BENEFITS AND HINDRANCES

Summertime resident Skip Davis has shared a boundary for 16 years with the property that Carter plans to buy. Davis’ house was the former home of a shooting range, which dovetailed with the bowling alley in the island’s recreational past, he said.

Davis knew that some housing units were proposed for the site, but he was told there would be about eight units.

Summertime resident Skip Davis, who lives next door to the site of the proposed condos, says 14 units would be "a tough pill for the island to swallow." Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Summertime resident Skip Davis, who lives next door to the site of the proposed condos, says 14 units would be “a tough pill for the island to swallow.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“I was fine with eight units, but 12 to 15 is another story,” he said. “It will be a tough pill for the island to swallow.”

Residents who don’t live in the immediate neighborhood were less wary of Carter’s plans.

Tim Wyant, a member of the Peaks Island Council, said it is too early for him to endorse Carter’s project, and he wanted to make sure that a change wouldn’t allow unwelcome projects in the rest of the business zone, which stretches along the island’s western shore. But he called the plans “timely.”

“Restrictive zoning on the island was well-intentioned, and they’ve done some good things in preventing certain types of growth,” he said. “It’s also resulted in the unintended side effects of more expensive seasonal homes being built and, with the housing prices, making it more difficult to keep a more diverse population on the island of seniors and young people and artists and people who are still working on the waterfront.”

Betsey Remage-Healey is the president of the nonprofit Home Start, which advocates for affordable housing on the island. She said the organization has not yet taken a position on the zoning change or the condo project, but she has spoken with Carter about his ideas.

“It’s an interesting way of approaching providing more affordable housing on Peaks,” she said. “What’s needed is housing that allows the island to continue as an economically and demographically diverse island, a real community.”

The first workshop at the Portland Planning Board will likely take place by the end of October. The board reviews requests for zoning changes and makes recommendations to the City Council, which has final say. If his request is approved, Carter would still need to return to the city for site plan review.

Staff Photographer Ben McCanna contributed to this report.