The Scarborough Town Council on Wednesday voted 5-2 to amend its growth management ordinance, giving developers at The Downs enough permits to begin the first phase of the town center project.

Councilors Don Hamill and Nick McGee voted against amending the ordinance.

Developers now will be allowed to build 289 mixed-use or multifamily residences within The Downs’ district through the end of 2025. Up to 58 of the residences  can have more than two bedrooms.

“I’m going to honor the agreements that were made in writing to these developers that they could build 2,000 units in The Downs over a 20-year period,” Councilor Ken Johnson said ahead of the vote. “The (ordinance) we implemented cut them at the knees.”

Rewritten in 2021, the ordinance allowed The Downs permits to build 104 units in 2021, but in 2022 it limited permits to developers in a growth district, like The Downs, to 43 building permits per year. The Downs developers said the cap hinders their ability to create a town center, with some of the mixed-use buildings proposed there to contain upwards of 43 units.

The amendment passed Wednesday allows The Downs to build 289 units through the end of 2025 and other developers in a growth district to build 100 units through 2024.


The Downs developers made three exemption requests over the past year, with each one more narrow in scope. After Wednesday’s vote, The Downs withdrew those requests, the most recent for the exemption of 289 units over a three-year period, which the amendment addressed.

Hamill voted against the amendment Wednesday, saying the council should have worked more on the ordinance before granting The Downs permission to build extra units, and to do so through the exemption process rather than an amendment.

“It’s literally like we’re kicking the can down the road, and then we’re actually going to build the road for us to kick the can down in the process,” Hamill said.

McGee said he was voting against the amendment “solely based on the process” of granting an exemption via an amendment rather than the outlined exemption process.

The yearlong back-and-forth between councilors and developers has revealed the ordinance’s flaws, councilors said, and they voted in favor Wednesday of making a “comprehensive review” of the ordinance. Councilors Jon Anderson and McGee will conduct the review, along with city staff and committees, and will advise on potential amendments.

“I think we’re lucky to have people with extensive expertise in this area to work on it,”  Hamill said. “It’s a good team to figure it out.”

Next, The Downs developers will work with the Planning Board to finalize designs and get the go-ahead to begin construction on the town center portion of the project.

“You don’t want unfinished projects, a sidewalk that goes nowhere,” McGee told the developers. “I would just encourage you to embrace some of those benchmarks as you go through that process that lets the community and people that live there know that you do care and that you want to bring it to completion and bring them the best product that we know you can bring.”

Comments are not available on this story.