SOUTH PORTLAND — A proposal to build 28 affordable apartments on Sunset Avenue in Thornton Heights got a rough reception Tuesday evening at a neighborhood meeting hosted by the South Portland Housing Authority.

Twenty residents and property owners turned out for the proposal’s debut and none of them said they liked the idea. Most raised concerns about its impact on traffic, pedestrian safety, property values and overall quality of life in the neighborhood.

“It’s too big for the neighborhood. It can’t handle it,” said Gwen Steuterman, 74, a near-lifelong resident. “Good luck, guys. We’re gonna fight it.”

Tuesday’s meeting was the first stop for one of two projects proposed by the authority to address the city’s tight rental market. The other proposal is a 48-unit, five-story apartment building at 51 Ocean St., in the Knightville neighborhood. Both projects require zoning changes to move forward.

Executive Director Mike Hulsey told residents at Tuesday’s meeting that the authority wants to increase housing availability overall in the city and shorten the wait for subsidized housing, which can range from two to three years for one- and two-bedroom apartments to six years for a three-bedroom apartment.

“I can’t stress enough the need for more housing in this city,” Hulsey said. “We know (the Sunset Avenue project is) going to have an effect on the neighborhood. We hope it would be a positive effect.”


The authority plans to build the project at 131 Sunset Ave., a 3-acre vacant lot overlooking the railroad tracks that Rigby Yard that the authority purchased last November for $185,000, according to city tax records.

Designed by St. Germain Collins of Westbrook and Archetype Architects of Portland, the project would consist of two three-story buildings containing 14 units each, including two- and three-bedroom apartments. The parcel is in a residential zone where the density limit is five units.

Twenty-one units would be priced to be affordable for a family of four with a median annual income of $83,400, Hulsey said. Seven units would be eligible for low-income housing vouchers.

Two-bedroom units would rent for $1,400 to $1,500 and three-bedroom units would rent for $1,600 to $1,800, said Patrizia Bailey, a development consultant working for the authority.

Hulsey said the authority and its consultants will take residents’ concerns into consideration before submitting formal proposals to the Planning Board in the weeks ahead.

A neighborhood meeting for the Ocean Street proposal will be held at 5 p.m. next Tuesday at 100 Waterman Drive.

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