Transparency Issues Surface at District 2 Annual Meeting

Jo Coyne: "We were sold a bill of goods," Referring to Americold on the Waterfront.

Jo Coyne: “We were sold a bill of goods,” Referring to Americold on the Waterfront.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,628)

“We were sold a bill of goods,  I don’t appreciate this.  We don’t have to have this,” said Jo Coyne, this evening at the District 2 Annual Meeting at Reiche School.  Coyne was referring to the city’s effort to change the zoning on the waterfront to permit Americold to build a 70 ft. cold storage warehouse.

Coyne cited several meetings held this summer with Americold and others, but no mention was ever made of the Georgia based company’s intention to build a 70 ft. warehouse rather than a 45 ft. warehouse as current zoning permits.  ‘She suggested that all parties involved had not been forthcoming on the circumstances surrounding this warehouse.  The matter will go before the planning board on December 13th with a workshop prior to its vote.

Some were surprised to read that the public works buildings were being prepared for sale and that a real estate company would soon be selected to  handle the sale.  “How do we know when a piece of city property is for sale?” asked Gwynne Williams suggesting that such decisions are not transparent.  Councilor Spencer Thibodeau invited the public to attend the Economic Development Committee meetings, on which he sits, because sale of property comes before this Committee. Jon Jennings, city manager, said:  “No one is interested in a Wal-Mart here.  There will be plenty of public process around this.”  Ashley Salisbury said she found that decisions made by the Economic Development Office were a “challenge” to her.  “Why do we have to file lawsuits to get what we want?” She referred to the Midtown project and Congress Square Park.

Ben Jones, a renter, said that the city’s answer to housing costs are “tepid to cold,” referring to the work of the city’s ad nauseum housing committee which has provided no relief for renters in the city. The housing committee is chaired by Councilor Jill Duson. Thidodeau said he had tried to provide some relief for renters but the council voted the package down.  He said he does not support rent control.  When asked about “voluntary rent guideline” measures she was told she was out of line by asking this question at this time. received the same response from District 1 City Councilor Belinda Ray when asked the question at another meeting – apparently a subject the city council does not want to consider!  Renters Beware:  Portland Does Not Support Renters!

Keri Lord said that every time the planning board approves a development that means less parking on the streets of Portland for others.

For senior citizens needing assistance with snow shoveling, Linda Weare of the Elder Affairs Services at the Barron Center will assist the public with that.  She can be reached at 541-6620.

Jennings said there are other projects going on in the area including the expansion of Maine Medical Center and the work at USM.  The annual meeting adjourned at 8:00 pm

Please see prior posts on the Americold controversy herein for more information.  They include:  post # 2,613, dated 11/3/16 and post # 2,612, dated November ll//1/16.