SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council called for a new master plan for the increasingly desirable Knightville neighborhood and issued a tacit warning to developers that it won’t look favorably on building proposals that exceed current zoning regulations.

The salvo issued during a council workshop Monday night appeared to doom a controversial proposal by the South Portland Housing Authority to build a 48-unit affordable housing project on Ocean Street, in the heart of Knightville.

Councilors showed support for a new Knightville master plan after hearing more than a dozen neighborhood residents and property owners voice concerns about growing development pressures in the waterfront village and the parking, traffic and safety problems that might result.

“This area is going to become a nightmare and we can’t handle it,” said Troy Goodwin, who lives on A Street.

Councilors said they didn’t want development to destroy Knightville’s sunny, village atmosphere and indicated a strong desire to follow existing zoning until a new master plan can be drafted with input from the neighborhood.

“We have to be very, very careful how we do that,” said Mayor Patti Smith.

Councilor Claude Morgan noted that, after hearing several residents speak against “spot zoning,” developers should recognize that the council doesn’t “cotton” to building proposals in Knightville that would require zoning changes.

Knightville neighbors blasted the South Portland Housing Authority last month when it pitched a preliminary proposal to build a five-story, 48-unit affordable housing complex at 51 Ocean St.

No formal proposal has been submitted to the city. The authority is trying to build market-rate housing to increase the overall availability of housing and shorten the wait for subsidized apartments, which can range from two to three years for one- and two-bedroom units to six years for a three-bedroom unit.

Executive Director Mike Hulsey told the council Monday night that the authority has scaled down the proposal, spreading 48 units over two lots at 51-63 Ocean St. and reducing the building to four stories. But while it would meet building height and parking requirements, it still would exceed the 20 units allowed under current zoning.

Hulsey left the meeting before it ended and was unavailable for comment on the councilors’ statements.

The council didn’t vote during Monday’s workshop, but it directed municipal staff to pursue a public master planning process with the Knightville neighborhood as soon as possible.

Planning Director Tex Haeuser said the process would likely start next winter, could be done within one year and would cost between $30,000 and $100,000, based on other recent master planning projects.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at:

[email protected]