By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,545)
Just when the height wars on Munjoy Hill appeared to be calming down, another war erupted on the other side of the Hill. The development of property at 155 Sheridan Street that would partially block the view from Fort Sumner Park on North Street has erupted into another political storm.
At ts August meeting the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization, (MHNO) )board saw a presentation by two members of the development team on behalf of Bernie Sauliner, a Saco developer. To the astonishment of the board, the views from Fort Sumner on North Street would be partially blocked by the six-story, 34-unit condominium.
Following the presentation the Board voted to “pushback” on the proposed development according to Jay Norris, President of the non-profit. A public statement on that position was never issued, however. In fact, Norris backtracked on that to the consternation of some.
Patrick J. Venne a real estate consultant attended the second of two meetings held between MHNO board members, city staff and developer Saulliner. Venne is a consultant for Suliner. “We have been in close contact with Jay Norris and understand the neighborhood’s position as well as the reasons behind i which is why we’ve gone to such great and atypical lengths trying to work with it. Presently the “sweeping vista of the City’s downtown, the peninsula, Back Cove and Mt. Washington is already preserved in the design concept which again hasn’t even been filed. This commentary is welcomed, but appears to slightly misunderstand the project’s status at the moment,” wrote Venne in email.
On a related matter, District 1 City Councilor Belinda Ray, has announced her intentions to call for a ban on all development abutting a public park in the R-6 zone on the Hill. The moratorium would be for sixty (60) days to start. Ray has said the ban would support “open spaces” and not be “anti-development.” The matter is expected to be on the City Council’s agenda for its upcoming meeting on Monday, October 17, 2016.
“In Maine moratoria are reserved for extreme cases where existing processes are inadequate to protect the community from serious public harm. Here it’s the exact opposite. The developer has been exceptionally willing to proactively build consensus with stakeholders before even submitting plans for formal review. The need for a moratorium is non-existent, in other words,” wrote Venne in an email to mhn.com
Meanwhile, the MHNO board issued a flowery and dramatic declaration in support of the city’s Historic Preservation Board ‘s designation of Fort Sumner Park to be a historic landmark to protect the vista from North Street. The HP board is considering the designation, , but no decision has been announced. .