“Souls” Claims Debunked at City Council Workshop on 58 Fore Street

SoulsofPotland Turned Out at City Council Chambers Workshop Today.

SoulsofPotland Turned Out at City Council Chambers Workshop Today.

Jim Brady, Manager of CPB2, Following the Workshop.

Jim Brady, Manager of CPB2, Developer of 58 Fore Street, Following the Workshop at City Hall.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,254)

Debunking the fear mongering  about the proposed development of  58 Fore Street was the agenda at a workshop held by the City Council late this afternoon. .It was painful to watch as the City methodically dismantled the negative campaign staged by the SoulsofPortland, (“SOP”) in its own campaign to dismantle the redevelopment of a valuable parcel of waterfront property at the bottom of Munjoy Hill.  About 30 members of SOP entered City Council chambers hopefully, although they knew they could not testify. Creating a “presence” was a visual statement they wanted to make at the workshop.  But they left the workshop three hours later, grim-faced, as though they had just attended their own funerals. The creditability of the SOP had been tattered and torn – and left on the floor of the City Council chamber..  What were the leaders, Barbara Vestal, Ned Chester and Nini McManamy, thinking?

Long time residents of Munjoy Hill pride themselves on that heritage – often using it as a reason  why they have a more important stake in what happens on the Hill than others. Should heritage be a factor in decision-making by decision makers?  With the inevitable influx of others “from away,” change will happen.  It’s ineviable.  How long will it take for some in this community to accept change? Portlanders have been distrustful  of those “from away” ever since they were part of the State of Massachusetts.  As she left council chambers, Anne Rand, former State senator from the Hill & SOP member, said there was nothing “personal” here.

City planning staff answered questions put to them by Councilors that refuted SOP dogma.  Public access to 58 Fore Street will not be affected because it has been   private property since owned previously by Phin Sprague, Jr  There will be public accesses from Fore Street down into the property.  Jeff Levine, Director, of the Planning Office said that the intention of the city has always been to change that portion of land to B-6 zoning, which permits a mixed-used zoning not currently possible, although the SOPs have always insisted otherwise.   Portland Trails will not be affected by this development because it would take an Act of the State of Maine as well as the City of Portland to make changes since it is located on State and City property, another factoid the SOPs have denied.  Levine confirmed that the city has adopted the use of “average grade” level measurement of building heights rather than the “flood plain” level as SOP has consistently maintained in its fear mongering rhetoric. That’s how the workshop went…

The Historic Preservation Board is charged with making a recommendation to the City Council as to whether or not 58 Fore Street should be named a “local historic” district.  That determination has been the stated goal of Deb Andrews, manager of the Historic Preservation Office for the city. as well as the preservation community in Portland.  Levine responded to a question from Councilor David Brennerman that many of the old buildings are well beyond repair and should be torn down.  Levine would not recommend a local historic designation for 58 Fore Street, although that is a decision alone for the City Council to make. Brennerman also noted that the SOP slogan, “No Blank Check” was null and void.  There are plenty of safeguards in the city’s process to ensure a good outcome for this development as well as for future development of the site he concluded.

Former 58 Fore Street property owner Phin Sprague, Jr, recently said:  “I’ve spent years trying to keep those buildings standing with duct tape,” a reference to the poor condition of many of them.

Brennerman said that he had tried to answer the questions posed to him by constituents in Portland about 58 Fore Street.  “We may not end up in the same place or maybe we will,” he told those gathered.

“We were pleased with how the Portland City staff articulated the extensive work that went into establishing the community vision 10 years ago that is now part of the City’s comprehensive plan.  Responses to questions from the Council ought to allay fears expressed by concerned neighbors,”said Jim Brady, developer of 58 Fore Street, wrote in an email.

The zoning change application by CPB2 will be voted on by the city council at its next meeting on Monday, April 6th. WARNING::  First on the agenda is a preliminary look at the proposed  budget.  It could be a long night.