Late this evening the city’s planning board unanimously approved the Master Development Plan submitted by CPB2 LLC to redevelop the property at 58 Fore Street at the bottom of Munjoy HIll. Approval came easily despite opposition from neighbors who maintained the Plan is inconsistent with the city’s standards for the development of this major initiative on the waterfront. It’s anticipated that ground will be broken for this multi-phase project in the summer of 2017.
In the opening minutes of the 3 l/2 hour meeting, Jim Brady, managing partner of CPB2LLC, told the planning board that this redevelopment “will create a new neighborhood with public access for Munjoy Hill and……. a world-class marina.” David Saus of Woodard & Curran (civil engineers) followed with a detailed analysis explaining why the proposed Master Development Plan is consistent with Portland’s land use code, comprehensive plan and Eastern Waterfront Master Plan – a position taken by the city’s planning staff.as well. Of significance is the fact that 60% of the project is open space with 75% of that publicly accessible – once a basis for scuttling the project by the now-defunct Souls of Portland who tried to stop the redevelopment of 58 Fore Street.
Chair of the Planning Board, Elizabeth Boepple said the Master Development Plan (“MDP”) does not get into the details of the redevelopment of the property. Site plan reviews will come at a later date and there will be more opportunities for public input.
Peter Murray, a founder of the new Portlanders for Responsible Development, said the MDP does not comply with city standards. “The MDP destroys the character defining elements of the District,” he said. Murray ran into a “buzz saw” when he tried to extend his time to testify to 20 minutes in order to show a video.
Chair Boepple said the board would not be looking at any videos during the meeting. Local architect Rob Whitten, creator of a controversial video that broke the lines of creditability for the now-defunct Souls of Portland, charged that the MDP did not comply with city standards. Hill home owner Paula Agopian told the plannning board she was opposed to the redevelopment because it could raise her property taxes.
Hill resident Michael Connolly, who has been critical of the redevelopment in the past, wanted to know if the developer would commit to lowering the heights of the buildings and to not applying for TIF relief from the city. Jim Brady said it was too early in the process to make any commitments in those regards.
However, Chris Hall, executive director of the Portland Community Chamber of Commerce, urged passage of the MDP. “Economic growth in this community is essential. Adopt the plan because it will be good for the city, its residents and the entire community,” Hall said. Others agreed with his assessment. Architect Patrick Costin, executive director of the Portland Society of Architects likewise urged the board to approve the MDP submitted by CPB2LLC.
No one from the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization testified on behalf of the nonprofit. Jay Norris, president of the MHNO, has testified in the past in opposition to the sales and purchase agreement of a parcel of “landlocked” property adjacent to 58 Fore Street. Norris stated previously that the proposed deal didn’t have a good smell.
Around 10:00 pm, long-time planning board member Carol Morrisette, opened deliberations when she found the MDP and city standards to be compatible. Other board members followed her lead. Newer board member Kristien Nichols said” I think it’s awesome that Portland is trying to take it to the next level. The MDP is in compliance with the city’s standards.” Chair Boepple said that she had read all of the material presented to her. “I have listened to the public. This does comply with city documents…this is not the end of the story for those concerned about massing and height issues.”
The almost 10-acres of waterfront property was sold to CPB2LLC three years ago by Phin Sprague, Jr., who operated Portland Yacht Services in that location for many years. The price tag was over $14 M. Sprague has since relocated his marina and yacht repair business to West Commercial Street.
“We are disappointed with the final vote on this,” said Murray at the end of meeting shortly before 11:00 pm. The justification for the formation of the Portlanders for Responsible Development is to serve as a rallying point for people who want to work together on this civic issue.” Seventy (70) people signed a petition in opposition to the MDP submitted by CPB2LLC, he said.