By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,300)
The “Souls of Portland’, a band of Munjoy Hill activists, is getting ready to begin a referendum campaign intended to protect Portland from any development in the city that might impact scenic views. This citizen initiative would affect all development in Portland, but is aimed specifically at the redevelopment of 58 Fore Street, a ten -acre parcel of land formerly known as the Portland Co. and formerly home to Portland Yacht Services.
The development company;, CPB2, managed by Jim Brady, and the Souls have been at odds since the developer asked the city for a zoning change that would permit it flexibility to develop the property into a mixed-use development. The Souls who are opposed to the zoning change would prefer to see the property underused and of no economic value to the neighborhood or the city of Portland. Some members of the Souls are the same ones that waged a nasty fight against the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum’s relocation to Portland Yacht Services, 58 Fore Street, from Massachusetts in the early 90’s. Barbara Vestal and Nini McManamy lost that battle. Those efforts sharply divided the neighborhood as this is doing as well.
Unfortunately, the Souls short-sighted campaign against the redevelopment of 58 Fore Street has been based largely on distortions of the truth if not down right lies; anything to scare others into supporting attacks against CPB2 – a tactic used when fighting the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad – and did not work. It won’t work this time either.
On example of that distortion of the truth was exhibited by local architect and Hill resident Rob Whitten. In a conroversial video he was hired to produce by the Souls,,Whitten “…showed the maximum allowable build out blocking going up Fore Street. In spite of the guidance from the East End Master Plan which proscribed extensive view corridors. It was like a Red Wall, but an intentional misrepresentation to get people misinformed and therefore alarmed. The first step of radicalization. Once inflamed no discussion is possible. He neglected to apply the same criteria to the opposite side of Fore Street. That would have shown how foolish and self-serving the video was,” said Phin Sprague, Jr., former owner of the 58 Fore Street property.
Because of the Souls consistent lack of veracity in the past, it raises questions about its truthfulness in any of their statements – including the results of polling data the Souls recently released.
Local business owner, Angela Adams, is a member of the Souls of Portland – her flagship store on Congress Street is scheduled to relocate to 131 Middle Street in time for the June First Friday Art Walk according to sources close to the situation. Her current location at the corner of Congress Street & India Street is for sale, according to these same sources. Adams has a national following for her high-end carpeting and tote bags.
“This initiative, led by a small but vocal group who strongly oppose redevelopment of the Portland Company that discredits the hard work of professional city staff planners, the commitment and dedication of the planning board and the overall process in place intended to result in sound urban planning and development for our great city. In addition, this initiative adversely impacts the greater Portland community and the much desired economic growth that is needed,” said Jim Brady, in a statement released this afternoon.
“Decisions on zoning and land use planning are best made in a public process led by the planning board with a final decision by the city council. Zoning by referendum will not help the city of Portland preserve what should be preserved and also grow and prosper,” said City Councilor Jon Hinck, in an email to mhn.com. The City Council is expected to vote on the zoning change on June 1st.
Ann Rand, spokesperson for the Souls, was unavailable for comment.