The Direnzo family trailer park has been in operation since 1960, but will close in 2023 if the proposed 200 apartment project goes through. Chance Viles / American Journal

The Westbrook City Council approved zoning changes Monday that pave the way for a 200-apartment development off Spring Street that would displace residents of a small mobile home park now on the site.

The council approved the changes 5-2, with Councilors Mike Shaughnessy and David Morse voting against, saying they were concerned that the 14 tenants on the property at 984 Spring St. may not be financially able to find new places to live. Of the 16 homes located in Direnzo’s Mobile Home Park, owned by Tony DiRenzo of Westbrook, 14 are occupied.

The project would be consist of eight three-story buildings with a total of 200 rental apartments, according to preliminary plans. It would be a big change for the area now zoned for industrial use and is home to Idexx Corp.

The switch to residential use is purposeful, according to City Planner Jennie Franseschi, as the city looks to create more housing and turn that portion of the city into a gateway from South Portland, matching similar developments across the city line.

Once the sale of the land goes through, the developers will do whatever they can to help relocate the current tenants, who would have to move next spring, said Mike Barton of developer Tom Watson & Co.

Residents who spoke with the American Journal at their homes on Monday said the sale of the land may be inconvenient, but they understand DiRenzo’s wish to sell and retire and they’re pleased to have a year’s notice.


Jess Higgins stands outside her home of seven years. She doesn’t look forward to finding new housing given how high rent is right now, she said, but she thinks she’ll have enough time to find a new place to live. Chance Viles / American Journal

“I have kids, rent is high, but we have a year. I feel like we have enough warning,” said Jess Higgins, who has lived at the park for seven years.

Higgins said she’d heard talk of a potential sale for the past few years, so the possibility of having to move has always been on her mind.

“It’s quiet here, there are no issues. I haven’t started looking into other options but we will be good,” she said.

Her neighbors, Matt Guimond and Charlie Stain, also said they weren’t too worried about having to move.  Guimond said he’s known of a potential sale for a year and a half and he’s “OK with them selling it.”

Stain agrees.

“It’s their land to sell, and we have plenty of time,” Stain said.


Direnzo, who also takes care of maintenance on the property, said he “feels bad” for his tenants,  many of whom he’s grown to know over the years. The park, which he inherited from his mother, has been open since 1960.

“I really like my tenants. I will miss this and miss them, but I am 77. I need to retire,” he told the American Journal while doing yard work on the property Monday.

An early rendering of one of the eight apartment buildings proposed for 984 Spring St. The project still has to go through the Planning Board process. Contributed / John Laliberte

According to Barton, the tenants could be relocated to a number of properties owned by the company, or the developers could help them work with housing agencies like Avesta.

The developers could also provide startup money for a new place if they cannot afford the upfront costs to move, he said.

“What that actual plan looks like today isn’t formalized, but we have a variety of things in our toolbox. We have quality housing coalition relationships, our own other properties, so we have a pretty deep toolbox,” Barton said.

Shaughnessy said he would like to have in writing some concrete ways the company will find new places for the tenants to live.


Morse agreed with Shaughnessy, and said he wanted to avoid the idea or “even the perception that now this is a desirable place to live, let’s get rid of the low-income people.”

The project still is a way out and must be approved by the Westbrook Planning Board, where design plans, costs and other details will be presented.

Co-developer John Laliberte said the apartments are being built for the workforce, and the goal is to rent many of them to employees of nearby companies.

“The sale (of the land) is still in the very early stages and we do not expect to close on the purchase until spring of 2023 at the earliest,” Laliberte said in an email to the American Journal. “The construction, once initiated, would take another two years to complete. This far in advance, final rental rates have not been established. However, our intention is for these new homes to be appealing and viable options for Westbrook’s local workforce.”

City Planner Franceschi said the change allows that entrance to the city to be more of a gateway and to be in line with similar developments across the city line. The area is being developed for housing, she said, and the proposed apartment complex is not an isolated project.

South Portland is redeveloping (former golf club) Sable Oaks with residential development,” Franceschi said. “We are looking at the area of Westbrook and Sopo and the housing being created, that is a big deal.”


At the same time, the land for sale has seen no interest from industrial developers Economic Development Director Dan Stevenson said. The soil is too weak to handle large, heavy structures, but is suitable for housing, Franceschi said.

I’ve been on board here under 4½ years and not once have I had a prospect look at that area,” Stevenson said.

An early schematic of the proposed Spring Street apartment complex in Westbrook. The plan calls for two more apartment buildings than the six shown in this outline. Contributed / John Laliberte

The mobile homes are tucked into one corner of the large lot at 984 Spring St. Chance Viles / American Journal





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