The Biddeford School Department and city officials have talked about possibly offering vocational programs at the vacant former Smitty’s Cinema location at Five Points Shopping Center. The City Council recently rejected a proposal to amend the industrial zoning to allow schools. Some councilors said they like the idea, but prefer a contract zone rather than allowing schools throughout the entire I-3 zone. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — A bid to allow schools in the Industrial 3 zone to make way for the possibility of establishing vocational programs at a Biddeford shopping center was defeated by the City Council a week ago.

Some councilors said they like the idea of vocational and technical programs at the Five Points Shopping Center, but did not relish amending the entire zone to do so.

“I want the project, but I want a contract zone,” said Councilor Amy Clearwater.

Biddeford School Superintendent Jeremy Ray said Biddeford Regional Center of Technology is out of space and the location was eyed as a potential future location for new programming.

“The request for a change was only based on the possible expansion with no plans at this time,” said Ray in an email on Friday. “We had identified this property as a potential for next steps as we are out of space at the COT. There are many additional programs we would like to offer students in the region. ”

City officials, the Biddeford School Department and the owner of Five Points Shopping Center Tim Harrington have discussed expanding Biddeford Regional Center of Technology into the vacant space most recently occupied by Smitty’s Cinema, according to a memo to the council from Planning and Economic Development Director Mathew Eddy and City Planner Greg Tansley.

The focus, they said, would be on programs like culinary skill development, hospitality certifications, programs for personal care like hair salons and the like, and potentially others.

Eddy and Tansley wrote that the I-3 is much more of a mixed-use zone than it is industrial. Currently, the I-3 zone contains retail, restaurants, services, industry, an ice arena, the YMCA, and a sizable number of medical services, they noted.

City staff and the Planning Board both recommended the zone be amended to allow schools.

“I’d rather see approval for this location,” said Councilor Marc Lessard. He said amending the entire zone to allow public and private schools throughout would be like “opening Pandora’s box.”

Clearwater said she was “tired of voting on piecemeal zones.”

“I’d like us to decide what we want I-3 to be,” she said. Clearwater noted there are restrictions about what can be located around schools.

“It’s a really good use for that space,” she said, outlining her desire for a contract zone.

The council voted unanimously to defeat the proposal to allow schools throughout the I-3 zone.

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