SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland City Council approved the first reading of the proposed zoning amendments for a potential five-story apartment building near the Howard Johnson hotel on Main Street. The proposed development by New Gen Hospitality Group includes a five-story 80-unit multifamily building  with a section designated as a shelter for up to 39 people. New Gen Group, LLC. Is seeking approval for a conditional zone called the Main Street Commercial Residential (MSCR) district at 675 Main St.

The South Portland City Council approved the first reading of the proposed zoning amendments for a potential five-story apartment building near the Howard Johnson hotel on Main Street. Courtesy photo

The amendments would allow for a maximum building height of 95 feet, contrasting with the existing limit of 35 feet, and a density of 15 units per acre. Additionally, setback requirements mirroring those of current zones were established.

City Manager Scott Morelli said the shelter is considered medium-scale. He said it was less than a year ago since they identified locations in the city that would be appropriate for small, medium, and large shelters. “So, less than a year in, changing that, when we don’t really have a defined plan, especially for what’s even going to happen here, seems a bit premature,” said Morelli.

“These were developed using the existing land use allowances in our zoning districts, prevailing land uses in the city’s neighborhoods, availability of services that would complement/serve the needs of shelter clients, availability of transit, availability of parking and access, and land/property that was amenable to shelters (e.g. rectilinear parcels with regular frontage, areas where natural resources were not a risk/at risk),” said Milan Nevajda, South Portland’s planning director.

The temporary shelter at the Howard Johnson, currently operated by Catholic Charities Maine, ProsperityME, and MaineHousing, is scheduled to transition its occupants out by June 30. “Recent reports indicate that these organizations are on track to meet this deadline,” said Nevajda.

During the public hearing, concerns were raised regarding the proposed height of the building and its potential impact on surrounding neighborhoods. However, supporters of the project emphasized the need for additional housing options, particularly for families, within the city.


The question was asked if there had been any complaints from neighbors. Nevajda said the comments received were generally supportive.

Rosemarie De Angelis made a public comment: “I don’t necessarily oppose this change. I do oppose the height. I would concur with what the city manager said, it should be medium size. The reason the schools look how they look is because kids go to school where they live. If you put all the shelters on the west side, then the concentration of kids who are socioeconomically challenged  are going to be there concentrated in that area. Look east of the Dairy Queen for affordable housing.”

“We’re concentrating this building mainly on two- and three-bedroom housing, which is a shortfall right now in the city,” said Ron McSorley speaking for the applicants. McSorley went to say they will be looking at the site plan state for a playground. He also said they added 25% green area. Council members expressed confidence that issues such as playgrounds and green spaces would be addressed during the site plan review process, with assurances that Sawyer Park, located nearby, offers recreational facilities for residents.

“If the zone is approved, the applicant would determine whether to propose housing (and exactly how many units and their type) alone or combined with a shelter,” Nevajda said. “They would need to demonstrate that either proposal meets all city standards before they receive entitlements (site plan and special exception approvals from the planning board) to apply for construction permits.”

“Prior to last year, the city did not have a mechanism for allowing homeless shelters in South Portland,” Morelli said. “While it is still unclear if a shelter will in fact result from this project, at a minimum, it would add much needed housing units to the city’s inventory.”

After unanimously passing the first reading, the council will have further discussions on proposed zoning changes before the final vote.

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