The Elks Lodge wants to change the zoning for its 7-acre parcel on outer Congress Street from residential to business. But the mayor and City Council shouldn’t allow it – we have a critical shortage of residential housing.

The Elks don’t want to develop the land for residential use, even though it has been zoned that way for half a century. With business zoning, they will obtain a higher purchase price for the property, and more importantly to them, they’d be able to stay there. So the Elks refused to look at other residential zones that allow for greater density.

The housing market is at an all-time high. The Elks’ parcel is serviced by public sewer, gas, water, electricity and Metro. There are recent upscale developments nearby, testifying to the residential appeal of the area. It is simply not plausible to say that a vacant 7-acre parcel of land zoned residential in this city cannot be developed for housing.

That is why rezoning the parcel to eliminate all residential uses makes no sense. Portland needs to increase the supply of housing. That cannot be achieved by reducing the inventory of land available for housing.

The neighbors suggested a zone change to permit higher residential density. But that would not provide the purchase price the Elks stand to get by eliminating residential uses.

There are plenty of options nearby for office space, such as Thompson’s Point, which only now has an outdoor ice rink despite the city’s $32 million TIF. The city-developed office park off Rand Road also stands empty.

So there is no need for more land to be zoned for office space. There is a need for land for housing. It’s one thing to talk about the need for housing – it’s another to do something about it.

William S. Linnell

Portland