SOUTH PORTLAND — Neighbors of “the piggery,” a 6-acre property off Broadway and Sawyer Street, haven’t given up on the idea that the undeveloped, privately owned parcel should be preserved as open space.

Though city officials have indicated that the lot doesn’t qualify for Land Bank funds now totaling more than $1 million, several neighbors are circulating a petition in the hope that the City Council will consider their cause.

Petition organizers say they aren’t looking to drain the Land Bank to acquire the parcel, which the owner offered to sell to the city for $1.5 million last year. But they want the council to help ensure that some portion of the property remains undeveloped and that homes built there address the need for affordable housing.

“We’d like to preserve as much open space as possible and have whatever development happens there be as affordable as possible,” said Thea Sames, who lives with her family on Everett Street.

One of the largest undeveloped parcels in the city, the piggery property is in a densely populated residential area between Sawyer Street and the Willard Square neighborhood. It’s a ledgy, hillside plot behind Summit Terrace Apartments that’s also accessible at the end of Everett and Lowell streets.

Locals likely call it the piggery because a pig farm operated nearby in the past, though city records don’t show that a farm was ever located there, said Kathy DiPhillipo, a city historian.

Neighbors began organizing last year after owner Skip Lucarelli resurrected the idea of building a condominium complex on the site. Lucarelli built Summit Terrace Apartments, a 96-unit complex made up of several buildings that was constructed from 1977 to 1988. The apartment complex is assessed for tax purposes to be worth $7.1 million, but it sold for $9.7 million in 2013, according to city tax records.

In a meeting with planning officials and Conservation Commission members, Lucarelli said he wanted $2 million for the piggery property, but he would sell it to the city for $1.5 million, city officials said. The parcel is valued at $423,000 for tax purposes.

City Manager Scott Morelli said city staff members cannot decide whether a parcel is purchased with Land Bank funds. However, there is an established process and competitive criteria for seeking funding. A 2001 strategic plan rated the piggery at No. 20 of 23 properties citywide that were identified for possible open space acquisition.

Established in 1987 and updated in 2010, the Land Bank is funded by annual $35,000 budget allocations until it reaches $1 million, according to the city’s 2019 Open Space Plan. After reaching the cap, it receives 60 percent of the proceeds from the sale of any undeveloped municipal land and 30 percent from the sale of developed municipal land. It currently stands at $1.1 million, Morelli said.

From Bug Light Park to Clarks Pond Trail, South Portland has 33 city parks or school parcels totaling 375 acres of open space, the plan states. That’s 35 percent more than the national average of 245 acres among similar land management agencies. However, only 97 acres (26 percent) are protected from sale or development.

The Open Space Implementation Committee is expected to meet with the City Council in March to seek guidance in putting the plan into action.

Lucarelli, the piggery’s owner, didn’t respond to a call for an interview for this story.

In December, Lucarelli told the Press Herald that he intends to build 36 market-rate condos in several one- and two-story buildings, which is allowed under current residential zoning. He said he hoped to start construction in the spring, and that the project would be smaller than two previous development proposals that raised neighborhood opposition and were dropped.

Back in 2003, the City Council approved a conditional residential district for the property that would have allowed Lucarelli to build 56 apartments or condos in one building.

Neighborhood opposition cropped up and Lucarelli let the special zoning run out. In 2014, a similar proposal by Hardypond Construction also raised neighbors’ ire and it fell through.

Lucarelli said the 36 condos would minimize blasting, which is regulated by the city, and he would consider maintaining a recreational path on the property.

City officials said Lucarelli has yet to submit plans to be reviewed by the Planning Board. Despite his lack of action, residents near the piggery say they remain concerned about the potential loss of open space that promotes outdoor recreation, supports wildlife and absorbs stormwater runoff from drainage problems that plague the neighborhood.

Neighbors have gathered more than 150 signatures on their petition and they plan to collect more before submitting it to the City Council as a request for a spot on a workshop agenda, Sames said.

According to the petition, “the property has been widely used historically for recreation and neighborhood connectivity among multiple neighborhoods including Willard Beach, Ferry Village, and Meeting House Hill.”

While the petition focuses on the potential loss of the open space and its various benefits, Sames said neighbors collecting signatures have come to realize that the lack of affordable housing in South Portland is an equally valid concern they’d like to address.

Whether or not Lucarelli submits plans to develop the piggery, neighbors backing the petition would like the council to at least host a public discussion about the possibility of preserving some or all of the land as open space and ensuring any development includes affordable housing.

Councilor Claude Morgan, who represents District 1 where the piggery is located, said he would gladly support the neighborhood’s overall efforts, especially if Lucarelli is involved in the conversation. Sames said she would welcome the support.

“Hundreds of families can access the piggery without getting into a car,” Sames said. “There is so much support for preserving the piggery.”

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