Portland’s Planning Board has recommended a zoning change in the city’s East Bayside neighborhood that would allow more high-density development and create more affordable housing.

After just over three hours of public testimony and deliberation, the board voted 5-2 Tuesday night to endorse the rezoning of a significant section of land owned by the Portland Housing Authority to allow the agency to build an affordable housing project called Bayside Anchor.

The recommendation will go to the City Council, which has final authority over any zoning changes.

The rezoning proposal was highly controversial because the city’s planning staff recommended that the entire Portland Housing Authority campus and seven blocks next to the authority’s properties be rezoned. The measure that was endorsed by the board affects less land and far fewer properties.

East Bayside is a sprawling neighborhood that’s bordered by Franklin Street, Marginal Way, Anderson Street and Cumberland Avenue.

Several East Bayside residents said the process that the city used to inform neighbors about the proposed zoning change had not reached everyone – especially renters – and urged the city to postpone action. However, most of the residents who spoke said they supported the plan to build affordable housing.

Planning Board members heard the criticisms and agreed that the public outreach probably could have been handled more effectively. They also said it is important to support a project that promises to create affordable housing.

“I feel like we haven’t done our due diligence” regarding the sweeping proposal that would have rezoned most of East Bayside, said Planning Board member Jack Soley. “We’ll have to drop leaflets and change hearts and minds before that happens.”

Instead, the board recommended a more modest zoning change that would affect the parking lot at Boyd and Oxford streets where Bayside Anchor would be built.

The project would consist of 45 multifamily units, including 36 affordable units and nine market-rate units. The zoning change, if approved by the City Council, will allow a more densely developed four-story building and smaller setbacks than current zoning permits.

The change would also affect the Portland Housing Authority community center and two nearby properties. Board members rejected a proposal that would have rezoned all of the housing authority’s properties in East Bayside, including Kennedy Park, Bayside Terrace, Bayside East and 47-49 Boyd St.

“This is a very long brush to swipe across East Bayside,” said Cynthia Cochrane of Hammond Street.

Cochrane said she learned of the proposed zoning change on March 31.

Michele Kastner of Anderson Street urged the Planning Board to hold off on making a recommendation.

“I don’t think (achieving) density is a vision. It’s an objective, a goal,” Kastner said.

Planning Board Chairman Stuart O’Brien urged his colleagues to act.

“I agree that we could have more (public) process. It could take more time, but I wonder what would change.” O’Brien said. “I don’t think this zone change is going to create dramatic changes and I don’t think this is an experiment. It’s time for us to take the next step.”

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

[email protected]