The Portland City Council voted Monday night to rezone a 16-acre parcel at 900 Ocean Ave. for higher density housing despite an extended push by neighbors to keep the current zoning in place.

After lengthy public comment from homeowners whose properties abut the land and a handful of comments from housing advocates, the council voted 7-2 to rezone the parcel with Councilors Pious Ali, Mark Dion, April Fournier, Victoria Pelletier, Roberto Rodriguez, Anna Trevorrow and Mayor Kate Snyder supporting the rezoning, and Councilors Regina Phillips and Andrew Zarro opposing it.

The parcel is in Zarro’s district. He spent significant time talking with constituents at his recent District 4 meeting and requested several weeks ago that a workshop be held on this issue.

“I don’t see this as a develop versus preserve situation,” Zarro said. “I think that no matter what, this lot can and likely will be developed, it’s a question of how.”

A group of neighbors fighting a proposed zoning change on Ocean Avenue in Portland pose for a photo Sunday. Bottom row, from left: Lauren Whittemore, Deidre St. Louis, Ron Morris, Cindy Morris, Gayle Keeshen and Tim Keeshen; top row, from left: John Byron, Chuck Grossman, Patty Weber, Mary Jo Cross and Chris Barber. Sofia Aldinio/Staff Photographer

Before the council entered into discussions, several people who live in the neighborhood urged councilors not to rezone the parcel. Keri Lord, a former city councilor, also spoke against it.

“One of the really important things about the nature of this city is its neighborhoods; going in and destroying a neighborhood is not appropriate,” Lord said. “Our comprehensive plan talks about maintaining our city and neighborhoods.”


The owner of the property, Matthew Tonello, who plans to develop the land, said rezoning the parcel would allow him to build taller buildings, which he said would have a smaller footprint on the surrounding land.

Haikus were a theme at the council meeting Monday night, and Tonello followed suit. “Less Sprawling Housing/consistent with the comp plan/less impact on land,” he recited at the end of his speaking time.

Several neighbors said they were concerned that the proposed development would not to include affordable housing. When asked about the average price per unit, Tonello said he did not know yet.

Details of the proposed development will come in a forthcoming site plan that Tonello and his partner, Acorn Engineering, will submit to the planning board in the coming months.

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