Portland Rezoning Case Offers Lessons

Posted:  Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - 5:30pm
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In a recent case regarding rezoning a property in Portland, arguments for and against were very similar to those in the Fox Hill debate. The defendant, the Portland City Council, was found to have erred when it allowed a portion of a former church in Portland’s West End residential neighborhood to be converted to office space, a commercial use. The plaintiffs were neighbors. The Judge ruled that the Council's vote had violated the city's comprehensive plan. 

Interestingly, the Portland ruling was issued even though: 

  1. The site involved was a former Church, not a residence; as such, the original use of the building was not residential, like the Borden Cottage at Fox Hill, which has been used as a personal residence for over 100 years.   
  2. The owner only wanted to use a portion of the former church for offices, while the rest would remain his personal residence, so the Church’s "adaptive reuse, highest and best use and historic preservation" arguments were arguably stronger than those for Fox Hill and still the Judge did not allow it.
  3. Although Portland allows conditional zoning, the Superior Court ruled that the approved change constituted illegal spot zoning. Camden specifically prohibits conditional zoning (the zoning of one property with certain conditions).

This ruling provides a legal precedence for Camden to vote against allowing the proposed drug and alcohol facility to locate in a residential neighborhood because it is NOT consistent with Camden’s state mandated comprehensive plan and NOT consistent with the current permitted uses in the Coastal Residential Zone. Like the Portland case, the Fox Hill proposal should be considered illegal spot zoning.

This issue is not about helping cure alcoholics. It is not about boosting the local economy. It is about illegally spot zoning one property to allow a commercial enterprise in the middle of a residential zone—a use that is clearly prohibited in Camden’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance.

Sincerely,

Citizens of Camden for Responsible Zoning