Spineless Council Rejects Batson’s Amendment to Increase “IZ” Units to 18%


Allan Monga, Poet, a Deering High School Student, Was Honored by the City Council Tonight for Being “Out Loud Champion and Representing Maine in the National Finals in Washington, D.C.

Councilor Brian Batson During the City Council Debate This Evening.

Brit Vitalius and Chip Newell, Two of Portland’s Developers, Testified Against the Ordinance Tonight.  They Want More Data.

Late tonight the spineless Portland City Council voted 6 – 3 in opposition to a city ordinance that would increase the number of workforce housing units from 10% to 18% in order to expand the number of affordable units in Portland.

Those voting for Councilor Brian Batson’s amendment were Mayor Ethan Strimling, Councilors Pious Ali and Brian Batson.  That means that Councilors Cook, Duson, Costa, Mavadones, Ray and Thibadeau rejected the increase that would have helped alleviate the housing crises that exists in Portland for middle-income tenants.

Citing bogus excuses often contradicted by what the planning office director said based on his office’s record keeping, intimidated  councilors appeared stony faced and disengaged to anyone but the numerous developers who testified against the amendment. The long list of developers testifying included:  Jonathan Culley, Ethan Boxer-Macomber, Dana Totman, Chip Newell, Brit Vitalius, (president of SMLA), among them.

Developers urged the Council to follow the recommendation of the planning board that was against an increase in the percentage and supported regressive recommendations. It was pointed out that the planning board was against the ordinance 2 l/2 years ago when it was implemented. By all accounts it has worked well during that time. Planning office director Jeff Levine said he has seen no slow down in the number of construction applications since the implementation of the “iz” ordinance in 2015 – that despite the “chicken little – sky is falling in” prediction of greedy developers.

Councilor Duson, who recently lost her bid for a position in Augusta for the second time,  is the useless chairman of the Housing Committee.  She said this evening:  “We have lots of tools in our tool box.”  When will she begin to use them rather than brag about them?

In defense of his amendment to 18%, Batson said that “people thought the sky would fall in when this was first proposed.  It hasn’t.”  He cited other cities that maintain a higher inclusionary zoning percentage.  Burlington, Vermont at 25% and Massachusetts and New Jersey at 15% and 35% for larger developments.

Mayor Strimling supported Batson’s amendment in a spellbinding endorsement that was followed by a pregnant silence when he finished.  Among other remarks, he said that in 500 communities across the country 73% have a inclusionary zoning ordinance of 15% or more.  “We are at the low end of the spectrum,” he said.  “This is the data you are looking for.”  That in response to developers and councilors who stalled the issue looking for more time – years – to collect the needed data. Always a stalling tactic, when there is no legitimate defense. Carolyn Silvus, an advocate with Homeless Voices for Justice testified effectively in favor of the Batson amendment.

Maine is the country’s ninth (9th) most expensive rental market according to a report released recently by the National Low Income Housing Coalition of Washington, D.C.  Maine renters who have an average hourly wage of $11.44 need $18.73 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

Apparently, the city council is pushing hard for the distinction of becoming  No. 1 in that category.  When will the city council start representing everyone rather than just a few of its wealthy friends?