Me. Supreme Court Upholds City’s Decision to Approve Williston-West Zoning Agreement

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By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,197)

In a decision issued today, the Maine Supreme  Court reversed the decision of a lower court when it found that the city council of Portland was correct in approving the conditional zoning agreement application of Dr. Frank Monsour for Williston-West Church, on Portland’s west end.  The zoning change would have permitted a small office space for a start-up software company – Majella Global Technologies – belonging to the Monsour family, of Australia.

The historic 140-year old Church and parish house became the center of a neighborhood controversy when opponents of the zoning change objected strenuously to permitting such an intrusion in their pristine, upscale neighborhood.  Led by community activists Orlando Delogue, Charles Remmel and Anne Pringle, opponents testified at all manner of city meetings.  Residents of the west end ultimately filed a lawsuit against the City and the Monsour family which they won when Justice Joyce Wheeler ruled in their favor.  The City appealed Judge Wheeler’s ruling. The case was argued last month and the decision to uphold the city’s position followed yesterday.

Architect Paul Stevens who lives directly across Thomas Street from the historic Church said:  “I’m very pleased with this decision and so are all of  us who supported the rezoning.   I’ve been in touch with Frank Monsour and he was very pleased with the news.  I don’t know how long it will take before he moves on with this.  It needs to go to the planning board next for a site review.   This is a major victory because it reinforces the authority of the City Council to make decisions in terms of municipal authority.  Stevens great-grandfather was John Paul Stevens, premier architect in Portland who designed the parish house next to the Church.

“The City is pleased to receive today’s decision from the Maine Law Court in Remmel et al v. City of Portland.  The Law court vacated the lower court’s decision and mandated that it affirm the City Council’s well-reasoned approval of the conditional zone agreement authorizing the rehabilitation of the historic Williston-West Church in Portland’s wet end.  Overall, this decision confirmed our understanding of this area of Maine law and allows an important project to move forward,” said Jessica Grondin, City of Portland spokesperson in a press release.