Munjoy Hill “Tower” Rallies Question 2 Activists; Housing Experts Respond

34 Howard Street Has Been Lableld by Neighbors as a"Tower"

34 Howard Street Has Been Labeled by Neighbors as a”Tower”

134 Washington Avenue, Thomas Heights, Has a Scenic View from the Back Yard and Could Have Been Challenged if the Ordinance Had been in Place Previously.

134 Washington Avenue, Thomas Heights, Has a Scenic View from the Back Yard and Could Have Been Challenged if the Ordinance Had been in Place Previously.

Nini McManamany & Ralph Carmona Testified Against the Proposed Zoning Changes.

Nini McManamy & Ralph Carmona, Hill Residents, at a “Souls” Meeting at East End Community School Months Ago.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,452)

34 Howard Street on Munjoy Hill has become a rallying  cry for neighbors who support Question 2 on the November 3rd ballot. Dubbed “The Tower”, yet to be constructed condominium units have neighbors angry – very angry.  The  suggested  five-story building, including a garage level,  if built would replace a trashed home long empty. The property is owned by real estate agent Tom Landry and he wants to “build to suit” future condominium owners.

While it’s not clear just what “scenic”  view would be blocked by the possible construction of the Tower, neighbors are supporting the referendum on the upcoming ballot next month.  Neighbor David Jefferson, a home owner,  thinks the city needs a better planning process.  He’s also extremely  critical of the city’s policy that is  de-emphasizing the use of cars on the peninsula through recent zoning changes..

” We need to slow down fast growth such as 34 Howard Street. We are being told we  have no say in a building we will stare at for years. We don’t need a Barby & Ken Dreamhouse here. There are two sides to all of this,” a frustrated Jefferson told this blogger recently while standing in front of the Tower. Finally, Jefferson said that  Question 2, intended to stop the redevelopment of 58 Fore Street, had nothing to do with the property at 34 Howard Street.  But he’s still supporting Question 2 on the November 3rd, anyway.

Indeed there are two sides to the view referendum as Jefferson pointed-out.

Housing for low-income people would be jeopardized should this referendum pass according to housing experts.  Not just high-end  housing would disappear, but low-income housing would be stopped said Dana Totman, President of Avesta Housing. Totman and others made their case against Question 2 from the construction site of a low-income project at 134 Washington  Avenue.  Built to accommodate veterans, the development would have been challenged if the proposed ordinance had been in effect. The eighteen rental units, “Thomas Heights,” has a sweeping view from the back yard that would be challenged under the ordinance, although it is not a water view.  “We want to build more units like this because there is a desperate need for it,” said Totman. Thomas Heights, named for a Preble Street employee and veteran, will begin moving tenants into their efficiency units in mid-December.

“Last year more than 3,000 households sought an affordable home from Avesta, but we were only able to help about 300 because resources are so scarce,” said Totman.  “Now in 2015, requests for our housing are up by another 25 percent overall and more than 45 percent among senior households.  In the face of much-needed affordable housing, our concern is that at least six of the affordable properties we have built in Portland in recent years, now housing more than 200 seniors and families, may never have happened if this proposed view referendum were  in place.  An additional hurdle to creating much-needed affordable housing is a risk that people in need of affordable housing can’t afford,” said Totman.

Totman expressed concern that the new 57 units at 409 Cumberland Avenue or the 16 condos at the former Adam’s School site on Munjoy Hill  or the 114 homes on Pearl Street would have all been challenged had this ordinance been in place when they were proposed.  “Unfortunately, there are 2,500 people on our waiting list and we want to build more housing for them.  That may not be possible because question 2 will add another hurdle to creating affordable housing…..”

“At a time when AARP Maine is working with Portland to ensure the city is a community for all ages to live, work and play, this proposal is very restrictive and would greatly impact housing options for all older and middle-income Portlanders,” said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director.  “As currently written, the referendum is also confusing and unclear to voters.  AARP Maine urges Portland voters to vote No on Portland Question 2.”

Real estate attorney Barbara Vestal whose home overlooks the ten acres of waterfront property wrote the ill-conceived referendum. (Vestal represents developers Peter Bass and Ron Gan in real estate matters, among others.)


One thought on “Munjoy Hill “Tower” Rallies Question 2 Activists; Housing Experts Respond

  1. whenever you can replaced a vacant, unused lot or dilapidated house with a new building, that is best. of course “ugly” architecture is subjective, but then again sometimes there is just no question that it is indeed that, ugly. why not work with the developer to create something beautiful? are residents saying that a new building cant be more beautiful than an old one? that’s nonsense. we are funny about new, we are very superficial about it too. when one wins the lottery the old car is replaced by the latest in style, technology, and prestige. nobody has any interest in fixing that up. if you really care, research some new multi-family structures in boston and brooklyn that look nice, and give the images to the developer. tell them you want something nice like that. after all, we — the neighbors — will have to look it every day. the occupants don’t, because they are inside it. why is it so hard to copy something great? (picasso once said, “good artists copy, great artists steal.”) nobody should blame you for being upset if the developer does not care what the residents think, because then he is simply an A-hole. however, most of the time everyone is looking for a win/win situation. but don’t march on down and confront him like hick mainers in 1,000 times washed LL Bean wear, spewing diatribe with silly phrases like, “5 story towers.” they will laugh at you and not respect you, and nobody likes someone they dont respect. put some effort into being learned.

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