District One Meeting Focuses on Hill Issues; Parking Garage?


By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,600)

Parking and the increasing lack thereof on the Hill was the overriding issue for about forty neighbors from District 1 who attended last night’s city hosted meeting at East End Community School on Munjoy Hill, although other issues did rise to the surface as well.  The meeting was facilitated by city councilor Kevin Donoghue, of District 1. Others attending included Mayor Michael Brennan, city manager Mark Rees and just elected the previous evening councilor-at-large, Jon Hinck.

Each fall the city hosts meetings in each district with city staff well represented; sometimes even out numbering the number of residents attending the meeting.  It’s an opportunity for residents to express their concerns about the neighborhood and ask questions of city staff attending the meeting.

Carolyn Young expressed concern about the habit of some who park too close to corners causing a dangerous situation for vehicles rounding those corners. The City responded that vehicles are to park 25 ft. from corners, unless otherwise posted. Cumberland Avenue resident Paul Ledman said:  “Basically, all we are doing is treating the symptoms, by putting up signs.  The real issue is increased activity on the Hill.  More development, restaurant goers and visitors to the Hill are causing parking problems for residents.”  Crandall Toothaker, Eastern Promenade resident, asked city officials to consider building a parking garage on the hill with retail space available.

Jeff Levine, planning office director, responded to a question from a resident of the Eastern Promenade about expediting permitting within the city this way:  The city has developed two tracks.  There is the normal track and there is a new track – the “fast track.”  It’s been developed for smaller projects – like approval for decks and  projects that require less scrutiny like decks. There is no data available yet to determine if this has worked, but there will be.  There is also a hope from the city that applicants will submit clear, legible and code compliant (CLCC) applications.  “At least half of the applications need additional information,” Levine said. “Contractors don’t have to be licensed in the State of Maine.  We encourage people to carefully screen potential contractors to make sure they have experience in receiving building permits,” he said.

A Sheridan Street resident expressed concern about suspicious drug activity and more homeless people in her area. She requested more police surveillance.  She was advised to call SLO phone number to report this activity – 650-9005, when it occurs.  Police Chief Michael Sauschuch said that the passage of the marijuana legislation showed that voters do not want as many offenders going to jail.  His statistics  reveal that over the past two years, the Portland Police Department has made fewer arrests each year.  His Department will continue to handle arrests as they have in the past because it is still a federal crime to smoke marijuana for recreational purposes.

Mayor Michael Brennan said that despite the “Maine Sunday Telegram” report on Sunday of a record number of homeless people in Portland,  his task force on the subject had been successful. “We have almost doubled the number of people who have found permanent housing. “We still have a long way to go, but we are making progress,”  he said.  “It was a bad report.  Too one-sided.”