By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,312
In the wee hours of this morning, the City Council approved a zone change request from the developer of 58 Fore Street, CPB2. The vote was 7 – 2 in favor of giving the developer more flexibility in the development of the property than previously existed. Bending to the pressure of a band of NIMBY’S from Munjoy Hill, a/k/a the Souls, Councilor Kevin Donoghue (G) voted against the zone change requested by CPB2 LLC. Joining him was the other Green, Councilor David Marshall of the West End. He cited the threat of a lawsuit and a referendum by the Souls as justification for his oppposition to the zone change. The almost 10 acre site is the location of the former Portland Company Complex,an industrial giant in the northeast during its day.
In what has seemed to be mostly a contest between NIMBY’s of the Hill and the rest of Portland was verified last night. More than three times as many people testified in support of the zone change as those who opposed it. The handful opposing the developer were leaders of the Souls, the same leaders who opposed the introduction of the highly popular Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum on the same property in the 90’s. They lost that battle and will lose this one as well.
Lacking logic as to why the change should be denied, the NIMBY’s were on shaky ground that caved beneath them when the vote was taken after 1:00 am this morning. The shaky ground was created by broadcasting distortions and lies that didn’t hold up under scrutiny by the developer and the city. Souls accountability came into the equation for the first time during this process – causing a train wreck of significant portions for the Souls. “Integrity” of the NIMBY’s became a factor upon scrutiny said Nathan Smith, attorney and former Portland mayor, who testified in support of the zone change.
Eamonn Dundon, a high school student, told the Council and overflow crowd in part: “Unfortunately our city has recently been taken over by an anti-development hysteria that has already cost us key development opportunities. We cannot let that happen again with this property…………..While I certainly feel sorry that some property owners views might be compromised, I find it hard to muster too much sympathy because the simple truth is that when you buy a house you don’t own the view.” Phin Sprague, Jr., who sold the property to CPB2 said: “I sold the property to people who are willing to make it into a world-class place. We found really good people. We turned down idiots.” Matthew Kennedy, of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization,(MHNO) reported on a survey the group took. The results were so close that the MHNO decided not to take a stand on the matter. However, another discovery from the survey was that these decisions were based on “misinformation.”
While Councilor Ed Suslovic performed his usual grandstanding, perhaps with a possible run for Mayor coming, a thoughtful approach came from Councilor Justin Costa, at 1:10 am this morning: “We are dealing with two blocks here. I”m frustrated by this,” he repeated. “We need to get back to more important issues. Like our public schools. Like public safety.” This should not be a difficult decision, but it comes with not so veiled threats of lawsuits and a referendum. Councilor Jill Duson: “I have no problem with the Souls taking this to a referendum. That is not a real threat.”