Early this morning Portland City Council approved the controversial moratorium on development and demolition of structures in the R-6 zone on Munjoy Hill. The vote was 7 – 2 with Councilors Kim Cook and Brian Batson voting against the moratorium at 12:25 am. this morning.
The moratorium will last for 180 days and give the planning office time to recommend code changes for the R-6 zone on the Hill.
A late amendment to the moratorium, introduced by City Councilor Belinda Raw, will exempt the two projects that were targeted by Hill neighbors; one at 24 St. Lawrence Street and the other at 25 Monument Street, from the moratorium. Because their applications were submitted by December 4th, the two projects will be allowed to go forward under the current code.
The amendment to the moratorium offered by Raw was an effort to be “fair” to the two projects already under way by the date of the first reading of the moratorium on December 4th at a city council meeting.
Following several hours of testimony from many representing both sides of the issue and following another lengthy discussion among the councilors, the moratorium was passed. “The need is clear for this moratorium because demolitions have sped up. We need to have a break for a community conversation,” said councilor Raw of District 1. “There is a lack of diversity in what is being built. We aren’t getting much diversity now The moratorium will give us time to be able to grow in a smart way.” Hill residents have complained at public meetings that the condominiums currently built do not fit the character of the Munjoy Hill neighborhood.
During the public comment segment, prominent developer and Hill resident Jim Brady, testified in opposition to the moratorium because developers need more predictability and fewer “knee jerk reactions.” Brady, manager of CPB2, is in the process of redeveloping 58 Fore Street. It’s a development that many who support the moratorium were also opposed to the Brady development because it could block views from the Hill of the waterfront residents currently maintain. Jane Hurley, a St. Lawrence Street resident was opposed to the 58 Fore Street redevelopment. She testified last night in support of the moratorium.
Esteemed local architect Rob Whitten, who resides across from the 24 St. Lawrence Street property, testified in support of the moratorium last night. He was also one of the principles opposed to the redevelopment of 58 Fore Street, an important fact that Whitten did not disclose during his testimony. These are NIMBY’s trying to wrap themselves up in the mantle of “historic” preservation. It’s really about possible blocked views by several neighbors. As reported previously in this blog, no evidence could be found that President George Washington, poet Henry W. Longfellow or Governor Baxter slept at either of these two “historic” places on the Hill.
Taylor Johnson, an architect with Caleb Johnson told the city council: “We should not be so cynical to think the best design standards were in the past.” Quincy Hentzel, CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce said: “We need predictability here in Portland. We support the exemptions. We are concerned about the moratorium.”
Just seated Councilor Kim Cook, replacing David Brennerman, offered another moratorium which would have reduced the 180 day moratorium introduced by Raw. It would have shortened the moratorium to 90 days and been less of a burden for potential builders and developers. However, Cook’s amendment was defeated for several reasons – including the shortness of time given to the city’s planning office to do the work needed during this pause – given its heavy workload currently. Councilor Batson said he was opposed to moratoriums and voted against it in the end.
Nick “Media” Mavadones took the public down one of his too often too Long-Winded memory journeys that he indulges himself in from time to time – while unnecessarily prolonging meetings well beyond a reasonable hour. Although he complimented councilor Brian Batson for his brevity in stating his position on the moratorium, Media Mavadones did not follow suit. With a captive audience waiting for the council’s vote another trip down memory lane was too tempting for Media to Resist. Resist, Councilor! We did not need to be at city hall until 12:25 am!
“I’m not sure the moratorium is a good idea, but I’m glad that our project will move forward,” said Jeff Kane, who purchased the run down home at 25 Monument Street with the intention of replacing it with a condominium in which his family will live as well.
Please see post herein dated December 15, 2017 for more background information on amendment to the moratorium permitting the two above mentioned projects to proceed under the current code.