PORTLAND — Residents of the West End say that unless the new owner of land on West Commercial Street makes concessions, they will oppose a proposed zoning change that could allow construction of a 65-foot-tall office building.

About 40 people attended a neighborhood meeting Thursday night at the Reiche Community Center, where Vin Veroneau, president and chief executive officer of J.B. Brown and Sons, presented his company’s plan for the 10.6-acre property.

“We hope to build something that will create value for the city in the long term. We are not here to create enemies,” Veroneau told the audience.

Veroneau said J.B. Brown acquired the waterfront property, between Benny’s Fried Clams and the Portland Star Match Company building, on Nov. 23.

He said the company needs the city to approve a zoning change to enable it to develop the site at 113-201 West Commercial St.

Though Veroneau would not commit to a specific use or development timeline, he did say the highest and best use of the land would be an office building.

The zoning change, which still needs Planning Board and City Council approval, involves changing the zoning designation from one that primarily allows marine uses to one that would allow uses such as office, retail or restaurant.

Under Veroneau’s plan, only the section of the building closest to Emery Street would be 65 feet. The remaining section would be no taller than 45 feet.

West End residents said a 65-foot building would block their views of the Fore River and Portland Harbor, and thereby lower their property values.

“I realize that I don’t own my view, but this building would have a significant impact on my view of the river,” said Michael Curtis of Danforth Street. “It will definitely have an impact on the values of our homes and our equity if it’s 65 feet.”

Warden Dilworth, another Danforth Street resident, said he would like for his children to have a chance to sell his home one day, but with a “Berlin Wall” obstructing river views, Dilworth said “we may find ourselves locked in because no one will be able to sell their homes.”

“The people here are having a hard time envisioning what a real project would look like. They don’t want to give you approval without knowing what they are approving,” said Ted Oldham of Vaughan Street.

“We are pleading with you to keep the heights reasonable and in scale. We don’t want to see something massive built on that site,” said Jo Coyne of Salem Street.

Nearly everyone at the meeting raised their hands when asked if they would support a 45-foot building.

“I hear your concerns. We have a few days to think about them,” Veroneau said.

The Planning Board will hold a workshop Tuesday on the proposed zoning change, starting at 3:30 p.m. in City Hall. A public hearing and final vote on the zone change are scheduled Jan. 24.

The Planning Board will then make a recommendation to the City Council, which has the final say on zoning changes.

On its website, J.B. Brown describes itself as one of the city’s largest property owners. The company was established 125 years ago.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]