South Portland has the opportunity to approve an outstanding project for its Main Street neighborhood. Working with the city and neighbors, the South Portland Housing Authority has proposed a development that serves the needs of the community and the neighborhood.

The Planning Board voted unanimously in favor of the rezoning required to support the proposal. The City Council voted 5-2 last week in its initial vote on the rezoning. That means that 12 of the 14 public officials who have reviewed the project have found that it advances the city’s adopted plans.

After the old St. John Church and surrounding buildings have sat vacant for four years, it is exciting to see a project that can revitalize the neighborhood. The housing authority proposes a well-designed building along Main Street, containing higher residential density on upper floors and neighborhood-serving retail on the first floor, and locates well-screened parking behind. The proposal provides three single-family lots at the rear of the site, providing a transition from the single-family neighborhood to the residential density along Main Street.

All these features comply with specific provisions of the city’s comprehensive plan. In Maine, as in most states, the comprehensive plan guides all development. It is the city’s constitution for development. All zoning ordinances and project permits must be consistent with the plan.

Luckily, the South Portland plan is clear about the kind of development that the city wants to see along Main Street. It is “the spine for the development of higher-density, mixed-use projects” and more.

Hopefully, when the matter comes before the council for its second reading on May 15, all seven councilors will vote unanimously in favor of a proposal that carries out the agreed-upon policies of the community.

Natalie West

South Portland

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