Council Debates Zoning Change for Nasson Dorms

At the City Council’s meeting on September 7, a public hearing and first reading were held on the proposed rezoning of the former Nasson dormitories properties off Summer St. in Springvale from single family residential to urban. The Site Plan Review Committee and Planning Board both recommend approval of the zoning change.

John Barth, owner of the property, said a number of developers have expressed interest in converting the former dormitory buildings into an apartment complex, but are waiting for a zoning change before signing a contract. The current zoning does not allow multi-family dwellings.

Jim Nimon, Director of the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council, spoke in favor of the change, calling it a good opportunity in light of the current housing shortage.

Councilor Luke Lanigan, who lives in the same neighborhood, expressed concern with the additional traffic that will be generated by an apartment complex, as well as concerns with what other uses might creep in once the property is rezoned to urban. The urban zone is the least restrictive in the City and allows a wide range of commercial uses. He said what the neighborhood needs is more single-family homes.

Sanford’s Planning Director, Beth Della Valle, explained that Sanford’s Comprehensive Plan supports extending Springvale village beyond its existing boundaries, through multi-family housing and commercial development. She said if the property is not rezoned, it will likely never be developed, as the cost of demolishing the dorm buildings to build single family homes would be prohibitive. She said the planning board recommended putting restrictions in place to limit the type of commercial uses that could take place on the property, either through the purchase and sale agreement or a deed restriction. She added that some non-residential uses that would serve a residential neighborhood might be desirable.

City Manager Steven Buck read a letter from Andrea Lunser, an abutter to the property. She wrote that she is strongly against the zoning change, saying it would be destructive to the neighborhood and would result in noise and environmental damage.

Councilor Ayn Hanselmann said she supported the zoning change, and trusted the site plan review and planning board process to deal with issues like traffic and wetlands. Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy agreed, and called an apartment complex “a natural use for this property.”

The zoning change will get a second reading at the next City Council meeting on September 21.