WESTBROOK — The City Council gave preliminary approval Monday to zoning changes that would pave the way for 120-140 new homes proposed for Main and Seavey streets.

The changes would allow developers Adam Cope and Andrew Ginsburg of Rocky Ledge Capital to build a large residential building or buildings on land from 452 Main St. back to 35 Seavey St. The now vacant site near the Cumberland Mills intersection is along the old railroad line and surrounded mostly by homes.

The proposal for the $30 million project calls for either a five-story building or four combined four-story buildings, with commercial space on the ground floors. If it receives final council approval for the zoning, it will begin the Planning Board approval process.

City Administrator Jerre Bryant, left, Mayor Mike Foley and City Councilor Mike Shaughnessy hear a request Monday to include two sites in zoning that allows more residential density. Screen shot / WCTV

Previously, the city allowed a downtown building to have one residential unit per 1,500 square feet as long as it had business space on the first floor. The current zoning, approved in January 2020, allows a building with first-floor commercial space to have one residential unit per 500 square feet, which is negotiable if a developer builds more than four stories.

Rocky Ledge Capital wants to incorporate the Main and Seavey streets lots into that downtown zoning.

“Growth requires up instead of out, and we didn’t want to see residential growth push business space downtown,” City Administrator Jerre Bryant said. “This seemed to be a good marriage of additional housing, and its good location isn’t just because it’s downtown but also a major travel corridor.”

“This is in effect creating another neighborhood, and I hope as this project goes forward how neighbors interact will be put into the design,” Councilor Michael Shaughnessy said.

The project would join a development planned for 66o Main St., across from Riverbank Park, in using the new zoning. For that project, developers plan to add a third floor for residences.

“I am excited about this project,” Councilor Elliot Storey said. “This will help more people live, work and soon play again right here in Westbrook.”

Also on Monday, the council gave preliminary approval to a $20,000 grant from Westbrook Energy Corporation (Calpine) for the fire department to go toward confined-space rescue equipment and training.

“An example of a confined space is an underground storage tank,” Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte told the American Journal. “Oftentimes, people are doing work in those units or tanks and we have to rescue them.”

The money will buy ropes, carabiners, helmets and fans, and will pay for training that will get over 90% of the career staff certified in confined-space rescues.

These rescues don’t happen often, but the city has a lot of confined spaces related to different factories like Sappi, IDEXX and Calpine, Turcotte said. Confined spaces also include sewers, manholes, tanks and silos, he said.

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