SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council will conduct a first reading of proposed Knightville zoning changes on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

The Planning Board approved the amendments Jan. 23 by a 5-1 vote, with Linda Boudreau opposed and David Sheehan absent.

Planning Director Tex Haeuser said the amendments, developed by the city’s Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, would impact the neighborhood’s Village Residential and Village Commercial zones and could result in “slightly” more dense residential neighborhoods flanking Ocean Street.

But Haeuser said the primary aim is to protect residents from the construction of large commercial buildings that hug property lines.

The basic thinking behind the Village Residential zoning amendments, according to Haeuser, was to bring the space and bulk requirements closer to the design of the original subdivision in which the lots were laid out – in keeping with an urban village – while being careful to maintain needed protections for abutters.

Amendments include allowing a minimum of two residential units per lot and then another unit for each additional 10th of an acre, as well as reducing the minimum lot size from 7,500 to 2,500 square feet.

As proposed, the maximum building coverage limit on each lot would remain at 33 percent, but allow up to 40 percent when counting sheds, garages and other accessory buildings.

Among various amendments proposed for the Village Commercial zone is one that would require any building or portion of a building within 50 feet of the residential zone to be no taller than 40 feet – the residential zone’s limit – rather than the current 50-foot limit.

Another amendment would add live-work units as an allowed first-floor use. An additional change would add a maximum total building footprint of 10,500 square feet per property to discourage large new developments.

That means a building the size of the Mill Cove Landing condominiums, at 72 Ocean St., with four ground-floor commercial units and 27 residential units above would no longer be allowed in Knightville, Haeuser said last week.

Required residential off-street parking would be reduced in both zones under the proposal.

In the commercial district, the required 1.5 spaces per unit would be reduced to a maximum of one space per unit, or 0.5 for units that are less than 800 square feet or are one-bedroom units or studios. 

In the residential district, the reduction would be from two spaces for detached single-family homes and 1.5 spaces for most multi-family units to one space per unit, or less for smaller multi-family units as currently allowed.

Boudreau said she had concerns with the parking changes.

“I think it’s pie in the sky that within the next 30 years people are going to reduce to one car,” she said. “… Until we can provide better public transportation, I just don’t see it happening.”

She also said she had a hard time “wrapping her arms around a 2,500-square-foot lot.”

Haeuser said the committee will soon begin looking at other components to Knightville zoning, such as on-street parking, historic preservation architectural design standards, and infrastructure, including high-speed internet access. 

In response to concerns raised during a council workshop in December, the committee made minor revisions and clarifications to the proposal, including a provision stipulating that rooftops in the commercial district can only be used for residential purposes, rather than, for example, a rooftop bar.

If the council makes no substantive changes at the first reading Tuesday, the draft will advance to another council meeting, where it would have a public hearing and second reading. Unlike a first reading, where passage requires a simple majority, a second-reading change to the city’s zoning ordinance must secure a super-majority of at least five votes in favor.

If adopted, the new zoning provisions would not go into effect until 20 calendar days from the date of adoption.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

The South Portland City Council will consider amendments to Knightville’s zoning ordinance on Feb. 5.