SCARBOROUGH — Town councilors approved a zoning change Wednesday that will allow development of rental apartments near Dunstan Corner.

By a 4-1 vote, with Councilor Ed Blaise opposed and Councilors Ron Ahlquist and Kate St. Clair absent, 3 1/4 acres between U.S. Route 1 and Orchard Street was fully shifted into a town village designation from two residential designations.

The change allows contractor Rocky Risbara and Nancy St. Clair of St. Clair Associates to proceed with a plan to build three apartment buildings with at least 31 units abutting Orchard Street homes and accessed by Griffin Road and U.S. Route 1.

More than a dozen neighbors attended the meeting and about half expressed worries about added population density, increased vehicle traffic, potential damage to abutting wetlands and the kind of tenants who might rent the proposed one- and two-bedroom units.

“When we moved here, it was residential and we’d like to keep that feel the same,” Orchard Street resident Janice Cyr said.

Carriage Way resident Michael Wallace said his research made him question the scope of the plan and its effects on the local environment.

“Jamming in 31 units does not make sense for the area,” he said.

Risbara and St. Clair said apartment rents will range between $995 and $1,250 per month, and the entire plan requires Planning Board approval.

Blaise said he based his vote on the expressed opposition from neighbors, but Councilors Jessica Holbrook and Judith Roy noted the project needs Planning Board review and that zoning designations can be changed over time.

“This kind of housing is desperately needed in this town,” Holbrook said.

Another housing project slated for next year received a boost when councilors authorized Town Manager Tom Hall to sign a memorandum of understanding with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland to build single-family homes on five acres of town-owned land near the Broadturn Road overpass over the Maine Turnpike.

Hall said about half of the 17 planned homes would be sold to buyers qualified by Habitat for Humanity guidelines, and the sale of the remainder would offset infrastructure costs such as connecting the subdivision to town sewer lines.

In non-housing-related business, councilors took initial steps to preserve about 90 acres of farmland in an area off Beech Ridge and Holmes roads by unanimously approving a first reading of an order to spend $270,000 from the town land acquisition reserve fund.

The money would buy development rights at Comstock Farm on Berry Road. Hall said it would assure Chris Comstock could continue to operate a beef cattle farm, while also opening the land to public access with a walking trail.

Councilors also unanimously approved the seventh amendment to the contract zone agreement with New England Expedition that governs the Gateway at Scarborough.

The latest amendment, which received a Planning Board recommendation to pass Tuesday, removes a requirement that would have had the developers construct foundations for at least 100,000 square feet of office space by March 12.

Rick Shinay represented the developers  and said there has been $6 million invested over six years to supply site infrastructure, but developers have been unable to attract tenants in a slowed economy.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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