By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,231)
Strategies were developed this evening to slow down the expected adoption by the city of proposed zoning changes for the R-6 zone which covers much of the east end of Portland. About thirty (30) people, mostly homeowners, attended the meeting that was facilitated by Nini McManany, a Hill homeowner. Representatives from the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization, West End Neighborhood Association, Friends of Sumner Court, and the Bayside Neighborhood Organization attended the meeting at the MHNO offices on the Hill.
Well along in the process of adoption by the city are changes intended to increase the density in residential areas on peninsula. They include but are not limited to increasing density from 36 units per acre to 60 units per acre, reducing setbacks from10 ft. to 5 ft. and the elimination of parking for the first three units, among other changes.
Meeting participants agreed to contact city councilors to express their concerns and to write letters to “The Portland Press Herald,” and to the city’s planning board. McManany intends to create a Facebook page to describe developments as the situation evolves. There are two major issues to be addressed in such communications. They are the lack of public input asked for by the city; the other is that proposed changes are on too fast a track for approval. The entire process needs to be slowed down the group agreed.
Brian Burwell, who owns property on Fore Street, but lives outside of Portland said that when Cumberland was considering making zoning changes, it issued a comprehensive survey to property owners asking for their feedback on the proposal. (That survey did not include tenants, however.) Nothing similar to that was done in Portland. Although planning department members did attend some neighborhood organization meetings to explain the changes, residents are largely unaware of these proposed changes.
Other issues did inevitably come up such as high taxes, the lack of parking on the hill, and the lack of affordable housing on the hill. Developer Crandall Toothaker, who lives on the Eastern Promenade, said after fixing up his home, his taxes skyrocketed from $6,000. to $17,000. Pam Jack, from Sumner Court, said she was particularly concerned about the setback changes. McManany said she did not think that increasing the housing density on the Hill would make it be more affordable – as the city suggests.
McManany reminded the roomful of engaged people that next year there is an election and if they don’t agree with the view of their city council representatives, they can be replaced at the ballot box.
Kate Murray, a long-time Hill resident, who owns a three-family home, said she receives at least three letters and flyers each week asking her to sell her home. “I could not afford to buy my home today,” she said.