The renovation of the South Portland Armory, built in 1941, is an example of a creative repurposing of a building of historic significance. The Armory, once named to Greater Portland Landmark’s list of historic “Places in Peril,” now houses Riverview Martial Arts and the Rusty Lantern convenience store. South Portland’s new historic ordinance would serve to encourage future creative reuses of historically significant places such as this one. (Photo courtesy of Corey Templeton)

SOUTH PORTLAND — The S0uth Portland City Council passed the second reading of two ordinances to delay demolition of historic properties and incentivize rehabilitation of historic properties on July 16. The ordinances will go into effect on Aug. 20.

The delay ordinance establishes a 90-day waiting period for permits for demolition of some buildings while their historic value is assessed by the planning board and the council.

A second historic perservation ordinance allows for selective adaptive reuse of historic properties for purposes different from what is currently permitted by zoning.

The permit ordinances will apply to those properties designated historical by the Arts and Historic Preservation Committee and to those built before 1941. This would affect approximately 40 percent of properties in South Portland. These properties are mostly concentrated on the east side of town and along the coastline.

The waiting period will not apply to interior work.

Councilor Kate Lewis voiced support for the ordinances.

“The demolition delay allows us as a city to learn more about our collective history and heritage, even if the structures are demolished at the end of the waiting period,” she said. “It al- lows us to gather information and photographs so that we have the pieces of our history.”

The ordinance incentivizes rehabilitating historic places by allowing applicants to seek special exception to zoning restrictions, allowing for creative reuse of historic buildings. The board will determine, on a case-by-case basis, the compatibility of the proposed use with the underlying zoning in the district.

“For example, an art gallery may be considered a low-impact use that is compatible with a residential zone, whereas a drive-thru restaurant is highly unlikely to meet the criteria,” Community Planner Justin Barker said.

At the meeting, Peter Stanton of South Portland said that, though he was generally in favor of the ordinance, he was concerned that it could provide a loophole for historic property owners to create short term or transient rentals, the regulation of which was a major issue before the council in 2018.

Barker responded that historic property owners would still be required to apply for permits if they wished to use the property for a purpose outside of what is allowed by its zoning, and that such requests would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Evelyn Waugh can be reached at [email protected].

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