Developers have cleared the final legal hurdle in a plan to convert the last tract of farmland in Maine’s largest city into a subdivision of single-family homes.

Site work at 1700 Westbrook St. in Portland’s Stroudwater neighborhood began in early July – about a month after opponents of the project dropped a lawsuit against the city.

Michael Barton of Stroudwater Development Partners said Tuesday that crews are bringing materials onto the site to build roads and connect utilities to as many as 95 single-family homes and 25 townhouses – making it Portland’s largest single-family subdivision project in decades.

Plans for the 55-acre site include public access to a 24-acre preserve along the Stroudwater River and additional trail connections, including a bridge spanning the river.

The “Stroudwater Preserve” project comes as Portland is undergoing a development boom of luxury condominiums, apartment buildings and hotels.

“I think it’s a missing piece of the market in Portland proper,” Barton said of single-family homes. “It’s a good alternative housing option for people who are transitioning from rental to homeownership or transitioning from larger homes down to smaller ones.”

The size of the homes will range from 1,500 square feet to 2,400 square feet. Barton said he is working with a real estate agent on the final pricing, which is not yet available.

The property, previously known as Camelot Farm, was placed on the market in 2015 by the 11 children of Mary and Peter Rogers, who built a sprawling 4,400-square-foot ranch home in 1961. It was listed for sale for $2.4 million after Mary passed away and Peter was moved into a nursing home.

NEIGHBORS OPPOSED PLAN

Over the years, the family kept cattle, horses, ponies, hogs, geese, Irish wolfhounds and plenty of other pets. The children would sled on the hills, play basketball or tennis on their own courts, and help care for the livestock.

Up until the fall of 2016, a local farmer grazed cattle on the land.

Neighbors reacted harshly when plans were announced for housing subdivision.

The project, especially a zone change granted in July 2017 by a 5-4 vote by the City Council, faced stiff opposition from neighbors, who drafted a citizens initiative that would have given them a better chance at blocking the project. But the measure was defeated in November.

The project was ultimately stalled by a lawsuit brought against the city last summer.

Area residents Mary Davis, Michael and Mariam Scannell, Raymond and Alina Waterhouse, Eugenia O’Brien and Antoinette Demarco challenged the City Council’s 2017 decision to rezone the roughly 55-acre parcel to allow the single family homes to be built on smaller lots, allowing the developer to conserve 24 acres of open space along the Stroudwater River. They claimed the city did not follow proper procedures or the city’s comprehensive plan, among other things.

The group lost their initial challenge in Sagadahoc County Superior Court in February, where the case was moved because of a conflict in Portland. They planned to appeal to the Maine Law Court, but withdrew that appeal in May.

Stroudwater Preserve is planned as a sprawling single-family development of 95 homes and 25 townhouses.

APPEAL WITHDRAWN

Davis, who drafted last year’s unsuccessful referendum that would have empowered residents to veto such zone changes, declined to comment on why their appeal was withdrawn or discuss her reaction to the project moving forward. And other plaintiffs either couldn’t be reached or did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Barton, who was not listed on the lawsuit but later intervened in the case, said the suit was dropped after it became apparent that his company and the city had met all of the requirements and followed all of the proper procedures.

“It was a no-cost settlement,” Barton said. “We’re just going to stick to the plan and move forward.”

The first phase will include 44 single-family homes. Barton said the first 10 house lots have been selected and building permit applications for first seven homes – ranging from Cape Cods to cottages to Craftsman style homes – will be submitted to the city in the coming days.

He said the houses will not be “cookie-cutters” but will have complementary designs with their own unique features.

The second phase will be an additional 51 single-family homes. And the third phase will be 25 townhouses near Interstate 95.

Barton hopes to have the entire project built out within the next five years.

“We’re gaining steam every day,” he said. “Our excitement has been renewed. To see activity out there is encouraging to everyone who has participated in this process.”

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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