A group led by a local attorney wants to give Portland neighborhoods veto power over zoning changes, according to a report Monday by MaineBiz.
Attorney Mary Davis is leading an attempt to collect signatures to force a citywide referendum, which, if passed, would allow 25 percent of the registered voters who live or own property within 500 feet of a proposed zoning change to block it, MaineBiz reported.
Davis’ proposal would give developers an opportunity to override the neighborhood veto by getting approval from at least 51 percent of registered voters within 1,000 feet of their project.
Davis has until Aug. 7 to get at least 1,500 signatures to force a June 2018 referendum on her proposal, MaineBiz reported.
The backdrop for the petition drive, MaineBiz reported, is that the attorney is one of a number of local residents who oppose a plan to build a 100-home development on an old 45-acre farm, as well as some surrounding property, in her Stroudwater neighborhood.
Developers who have proposed high-profile projects around the city told MaineBiz they’re worried Davis’ plan would slow down Portland’s already often tedious planning process and effectively put the larger economic prosperity of the city in the hands of small cohorts of so-called NIMBYs — the acronym that spells out as “Not In My Backyard,” and refers to neighbors who oppose nearby development.
Portland has a lengthy history of battles between developers and neighbors, which have in some cases gone all the way to court for resolution.
Examples have included legal opposition to the proposed sale of the publicly owned Congress Square to private hotel developers in 2013, lawsuits that slowed and shrank the massive Midtown project in the Bayside neighborhood, and stalled the reuse of the historic Williston-West Church through 2014. One citywide referendum in 2015 sought — unsuccessfully — to restrict how the waterfront Portland Company complex on Fore Street could be redeveloped.