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24 July 2017

Portland Planning Board Backs Zoning Change to Allow Construction of New Cold Storage Facility

An architect's rendering of the proposed facility   - Img: Maine Port Authority
For nearly a year now the Portland Planning Board and local residents of the city’s West End have been attending ongoing debates regarding the matter of zoning changes to the Western Waterfront. The catalyst for the debate was plans submitted by Americold Logistics LLC to construct a brand new 68-foot-tall cold storage facility to be occupied by anchor tenant and refrigerated cargo specialists Eimskip USA, who seek to relocate their US headquarters to the proposed facility.

The zoning changes have now received backing from the Portland Planning Board, albeit with a few amendments to the original proposal.

The primary concerns expressed by local residents included blocked views as a result of increased height limits, the aesthetics/appearance of the building itself, and an increase in traffic to the area; much dispute also centred on whether the facility actually needs to be as large as the proposal states. Compromises made over the course of the public process however lessened this opposition, allowing the Planning Board to give their backing to the proposed zoning changes.

“We have truly been engaged in trying to get it right, and we feel that working together we have made a great process that to a large degree strikes the right balance,” said Anne Pringle, president of the Western Promenade Neighborhood Association. “No one is 100 percent satisfied, but that is what public process is about, vigorous public debate, that is what this issue deserves, and we got it.”

The newly-amended zoning change would allow for the construction up buildings up to 55 feet tall; a 10 foot increase on current limits. Buildings used primarily for marine purposes will be allowed to extend as high as 75 feet tall in a specified section west of the Casco Bay Bridge. Provisions have also been included in the proposed zoning changes which would limit the buildings’ footprints, as well as ensuring they are set back from Commercial Street and provide corridors between buildings in order to protect residents’ views. To further prevent the marring of views and high levels of congestion, only one tall building would be allowed on each parcel of the overall zone.

“I’m pleased with the outcome,” commented John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority. “I think the process played out well, people were heard, compromises were made and we ended up with a good solution. The most important thing is the impact that cold storage will have on the city, the Greater Portland area and the state.”

If approval is given to the plans following a vote at the City Council in September, construction of the $30million facility is expected to begin next year.

“I’m just hoping that Portland makes the right decision,” Larus Isfeld, managing director of Eimskip USA, told Mainebiz on Thursday.

“I’ve always been optimistic,” he added.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.