Amid a housing boom in Westbrook, some residents are calling on city officials to press pause on residential construction.

Ongoing and pending projects could bring more than 600 new units to the city in the next several years.

Alarmed by that possibility, more than 70 people attended a public workshop Monday night, many calling for a moratorium of up to 180 days on building permits for all subdivisions greater than 10 units.

Residents asked city officials to use that time to revamp the city’s land use ordinance, increase the minimum lot size for new homes and enact a process for collecting impact fees from developers. In particular, they worried about the stress new construction would put on the sewer system, roads and schools in Westbrook.

“The good news is your pro-growth strategies are working,” said Flynn Ross, who lives on Middle Street. “The concern is they are working a little too well.”

The City Council would ultimately decide whether to institute a moratorium and what conditions would be appropriate. More than 20 officials from the City Council, Planning Board and School Committee also attended the meeting.


Nearly 200 single-family homes and apartments are already being built at Blue Spruce Farm on Spring Street. Developer Risbara Bros. has asked to extend that subdivision by more than 300 units, mostly apartments. Without a moratorium, the Planning Board could approve that second phase of Blue Spruce Farm this fall.

Other projects are in earlier stages of planning. Tim Ly, the owner of MaineLy Property Management, said he is reworking his proposal for 96 condominiums on Austin Street after hearing concerns from neighbors. Developer Jim Howard of Priority Real Estate Group said he wants to build single-family homes at the 52-acre former Twin Falls Golf Club across the street from Blue Spruce Farm, but he hasn’t submitted any plans to the city yet.

At Monday’s meeting, city officials outlined the months-long approval process for any construction project in Westbrook.

“Although there are significant projects proposed in the city, they are neither uncontrolled nor unchecked,” said Jennie Franceschi, director of planning and code enforcement.

Rocco Risbara, president of Risbara Bros., cautioned residents and officials against stalling development in Westbrook. He estimated thousands of units are needed in Greater Portland to meet the current demand for housing.

“I would encourage the council to let the market do what the market does,” Risbara said.


Chris LaRoche, executive director of the Westbrook Housing Authority, also worried about the impact a moratorium would have on senior housing his organization has planned.

Of 25 speakers at the meeting, however, 17 repeated the call for a moratorium or expressed concern about Blue Spruce Farm or other projects.

“We really want this type of development out of our city,” said Bryan Bozsik, who lives near the development. “We don’t want this here.”

The city could require developers to pay for improvements that would mitigate increases in traffic. Residents questioned how the developments would affect safety for children and pedestrians, particularly on dead-end streets.

“If this is built as it is planned, it’s going to forever change the character of my neighborhood,” said Kate Bergeron, a resident of McKinley Street.

A number of speakers also noted the strained capacity of Westbrook’s schools. Peter Lancia, newly appointed superintendent of schools, said 331 students could join the district by 2025, and the school board has proposed a $27 million expansion to Saccarappa School and Westbrook Middle School, which could be decided by ballot this fall.


Risbara has said only 10 school-aged children will live in the first phase of Blue Spruce Farm, and he predicted nine to 23 could move into the second phase. But residents challenged those estimates, saying they think Blue Spruce Farm and other new homes would only add to overcrowding.

High costs are pushing renters out of Portland, while new housing starts in the greater Portland area are surging close to pre-recession levels. In the meantime, neighboring Westbrook has become a magnet for developers.

Since the start of 2015, the city has issued permits for 370 new housing units. Blue Spruce Farm has been a major driver of that new construction, and if the second phase is approved, the overall project would be the biggest development in Westbrook history.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.