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September 8, 2017

Ballot initiative adds a wrinkle to Portland's cold storage, Camelot Farm projects

Courtesy / Maine Port Authority
Courtesy / Maine Port Authority
Americold LLC won the bid to design and build a cold-storage facility in Portland two and a half years ago, but that was just the beginning of a prolonged debate with neighbors. A new wrinkle to that debate is the citizen initiative that will be on the city's Nov. 7 ballot, which, if approved, would allow Portland residents to block zoning changes if a quarter of property owners who live within 500 feet of the site object.

The Portland City Council placed a citizen initiative, put forward by a group called Give Neighborhoods a Voice, on the fall ballot. If approved, it would allow Portland residents to block zoning changes if a quarter of property owners who live within 500 feet of the site object.

A developer, however, could override the objection if 51% of registered voters within 1,000 feet of the disputed zoning change approve the rezoning within 45 days.

The Bangor Daily News reported that, if the initiative passes, a group of West End residents would use it to block construction of a large new refrigerated warehouse on the western waterfront property owned by the Maine Port Authority.

Another Portland project that could be derailed if the initiative is approved is the proposed single-home subdivision for Camelot Farm in Portland's Stroudwater neighborhood, which gained City Council approval for a zoning change that will allow the developers to build 95 homes there while preserving 24 acres as open space for public use and access. That project still needs subdivision and site plan approval from the city and has faced opposition from some of the local neighborhood.

Mary Davis, the Stroudwater resident behind the referendum, told Mainebiz in July that it is not an anti-development measure but a way to ensure that citizens' concerns are not ignored in the planning process.

Members of the business community and government officials have said the facility is vital to growing the state and local economy.

"It's a bit odd that a very small group of residents could overturn the vote of the democratically elected council," John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority, told the BDN.

"It's going to ruin the waterfront for everyone," Jo Coyne, a West End resident, said of the cold storage facility.

The multimillion-dollar refrigerated waterfront warehouse has been two-and-a-half years in the planning, after Americold Logistics LLC won the bid to design and build it. The facility is proposed for 6.3 acres leased from the Maine Port Authority at the International Marine Terminal, next to the rail line and close to Interstate 295. Eimskip USA, the Icelandic firm that brought container shipping back to Portland in 2013, would be the anchor tenant.

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