Monday, March 10, 2014
By Leslie Bridgers email@example.com
WESTBROOK — A plan envisioning retail stores, a hotel and offices on land off the Westbrook Arterial came closer to reality Monday night with the City Council’s approval of a zone change.
The plan, proposed by Portland developer J.B. Brown and Sons, also envisions an 18-lot subdivision of single-family homes off Stroudwater Street.
J.B. Brown has signed a contract to purchase the 60-acre property from Kimco Capital Corp. and was awaiting the zone change to complete the agreement.
Vincent Veroneau, president of J.B. Brown, said he expects to close the deal by the end of the month.
The change splits the land into two zones –about 45 acres for commercial development off the Westbrook Arterial and 15 acres for housing off Stroudwater Street.
The council voted 6-1, with Paul Emery opposed, to approve the change.
The council also approved an agreement with J.B. Brown that prohibits access to the commercial development from Stroudwater Street, prohibits the building of multifamily homes on the Stroudwater Street side, and gives the city the option to buy three residential lots from the developer to be used by the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center’s building trades program, in which students construct houses.
The conditions of that agreement addressed issues raised by city councilors at a meeting last month.
The two new zones replace a contract zone created in 2008 for a proposal by former landowner Jason Snyder to build a massive high-end retail and recreational complex larger than the Maine Mall.
The project never got off the ground, the property went into foreclosure and mortgage lender Kimco Capital took over ownership of the land.
“I’ve never been a strong advocate for expanding the retail footprint in this community,” said Drew Gattine, a state representative and former city councilor who lives across Stroudwater Street from the rezoned land.
Gattine was a strong opponent of Snyder’s proposal and the sole councilor to vote against the contract zone.
“The proposal before you makes a lot more sense than the current zone,” he told councilors Monday night.
Snyder also spoke at the meeting, telling councilors that when he owned the land, he turned down proposals to build a Lowe’s and a Super Walmart because he wanted to see something better for the city.
“This is the gateway to our community. We only have one chance to get it right,” he said.
Councilor John O’Hara spoke of the joy of driving down Stroudwater Street and looking out onto the stretch of rural land now slated for development.
“It’s been a pleasure and joy,” he said.
But, he conceded, “the doomsday clock for the ruralness of Stroudwater ticks.”
He said he believes that, as a well-established developer, J.B. Brown will move faster in making something happen on the property than Snyder could have.
“The change for Stroudwater is fully moving forward,” O’Hara said.
Veroneau wouldn’t predict when the project might break ground.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org