Signs along Westbrook Street in Portland on Monday oppose a proposed zoning change to allow a warehouse on Westbrook Street. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Residents of a Portland neighborhood say a proposed zoning change to allow for a new warehouse development would steamroll their community.

Touchstone Enterprises of Scarborough has asked the city to rezone the 52-acre property at 1772 Westbrook St. from a low-impact industrial to a moderate-impact industrial zone in order to build a cluster of warehouse buildings. The planning board is scheduled to take up the zoning request Tuesday. The change also would need City Council approval.

Chris Paszyc, president of Touchstone Enterprises, a real estate development company, said the vision for the site is to create five subdivided lots that could accommodate industrial buildings between 30,000 and 50,000 square feet.

“The buildings will be a mix of single-tenant and multi-tenant buildings,” Paszyc said in an email Monday. “Ultimately, there will be a variety of business classifications in the park. To say now who the users will be is premature.”

The zoning request has raised concerns among many residents who are worried about traffic, pollution and other disruptions in the neighborhood. Dozens of public comments already have been filed before Tuesday’s meeting.

“We’re not opposed to development, but we’re opposed to someone changing the zoning to industrial moderate because of the impacts it will have on our community,” said Frederick Faller, who lives on Westbrook Street not far from the site. Throughout the neighborhood, signs reading “Oppose the Zone Change” can be seen outside homes.


In a letter to the planning board, Faller raised questions about traffic and truck sizes. “Roads are designed and graded for a specific expected type and load of traffic as well as the expected vehicle traffic,” Faller wrote. “Heavy industrial vehicles wreak havoc on roads not built to handle them.”

According to materials from city staff to be presented to the board Tuesday, the low-impact zoning is intended to provide a buffer between residential areas and higher-impact industrial zones, is compatible with adjacent residential areas, and requires warehouse and storage facilities to be less than 10,000 square feet. Moderate impact zones are supposed to provide direct access to arterials, thus protecting neighborhoods from thru-traffic and allowing for larger industrial buildings.

Stroudwater neighborhood residents Jennifer Stenberg and Frederick Faller stand on Stenberg’s front lawn near a sign opposing a proposed zoning change to allow a warehouse on Westbrook Street. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Jennifer Stenberg, a trustee of the Stroudwater Neighborhood Association, submitted a letter on behalf of the neighborhood association asking the board to reject the zoning change. The letter said the change runs counter to the goals in the city’s comprehensive plan and raised concerns about removing the buffer area provided by the low-impact zone.

“We urge you to stay true to the mandate of the planning board set forth by the city and find that the zone change to I-M is incompatible with the city’s own vision and land use codes,” the letter said.

Paszyc estimates that traffic from the development would be about the same no matter which zoning is chosen. If the city keeps the current zoning, the developers could build more buildings with a smaller square footage, he said.

“There is no difference between the type of vehicles allowed with the current industrial zoning or the proposed zoning,” Paszyc said. “Given concerns raised throughout the public process regarding vehicle speeds and volume impacts, a full traffic study will be completed and reviewed by the city during the site plan review process.  The city will review that study and determine if additional mitigations are required.”

If the planning board and council approve the zone change, Paszyc said additional design and permitting would follow with a goal of breaking ground on the project in 2024.

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