By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,252)
About a dozen or more residents of the east end of Portland voiced their dislike for proposed changes to the R-6 zoning ordinance that would have a negative impact on Munjoy Hill as well as other neighborhoods on the peninsula earlier this week. The most egregious of the proposed changes reduces parking requirements for developers who want to save on space and cost of development on small lots in an already extremely densely populated Portland neighborhood. .
The testimony opposing the changes was heard by the city’s planning board at a workshop on Tuesday, November 25th at city hall. The proposed changes would permit developers to build on smaller lots and double the density of each project in addition to a parking exemption for the first three (3) units of future projects. The intent, initiated by the Portland city council, is to give additional incentives to developers for more housing growth on Munjoy Hill, particularly. The Hill has become a “hot spot” for development, despite the lagging sales of several condominium projects on the Hill.
Missing from the latest proposal is a reference to any contiguous property development – an issue that controversial developer Ron Gan has pushed the city for months to advance for his own self-interest. He has tried unsuccessfully to develop property on Sumner Court,. off North Street. City staff told Gan that the matter will be taken up at a separate workshop sometime in the future. Gan is a high-end developer who built the Federal Street Townhouses. He and Jed Rathband recently withdrew their proposal to develop the East Cove Townhomes on Washington Avenue for financial reasons. Rathband is a real estate agent with KellerWilliams.
Nini McManamy, a Hill homeowner, told the board that lack parking is already a problem on the Hill. “It’s the third rail – no one wants to eliminate it. “This proposal needs much more discussion by the public. People need to be noticed about the changes,” she said. Steve Gall said he is concerned about the scope and speed of the changes. “This will only exacerbate the parking problem on the Hill. How many additional cars will be parking on the Hill?” Ralph Carmona reminded the planning board that it required the St. Lawrence Arts Center recently to have a transportation parking plan in place before it was approved by the board.
Planning board member Bill Hall said this was a good proposal. He strongly supports the exemption for the first three (3) units. Chair Stuart (Tuck) O’Brien said the city does not have a parking problem, although there may be pockets of problems in places.
City Councilor for District 1 Kevin Donoghue attended the workshop and said following it that the city needs to “accommodate growth.” He said he was still the councilor until at least next year when he is up for re-election. Although there have been rumors that he’s considering not running again next year, he had no comment on the matter.
It’s expected that the R-6 zoning changes will be revisited in January of 2015 and not before because of the heavy workload facing the planning staff in December.
Please visit the facebook page Portland’s Peninsula Neighborhoods Zoning Amendments for more information on this subject. Also see Save Sumner Court for more on that subject.