2013-04-26 / Front Page

Super 8 denied land

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The city of South Portland has decided not to sell land off Main Street to the Super 8 motel, which neighbors say poses a safety hazard to the area.

The South Portland City Council accepted city staff’s recommendation to sell some portions of tax-acquired properties on Noyes Street to abutting neighbors and another to American Steel and Aluminum, while retaining the portion the motel would have liked, unless the other parties are interested in purchasing it.

No formal vote was taken at the Monday, April 22 workshop, but councilors unanimously agreed with the staff’s recommendation. Noyes Street is a deadend road that runs off Main Street between the motel and the steel company.

MaineLy Property Management, based in Portland, began managing the motel property a few months ago. The company requested to buy land abutting its motel in January on behalf of the property’s owner, East Coast Hospitality Inc. The new parcel would have allowed the motel to convert vacant rooms into 18 residential apartments.

However, neighbors worried about the way the motel has been run in the past expressed concerns about the idea of more residents coming into Super 8.

“The council should know what a terrible failure this business is,” said Elliott Randall, a Noyes Street resident. “The problems continue and have continued for years.”

Randall’s neighbor, Leigh Silver, had similar feelings about the motel. She said she’s witnessed brawls in the parking lot, and said at times, neighbors are forced to “shut our shades and hope it all goes away.”

“I’m not against business; I’m against bad business and things that are not safe,” Silver said.

City Manager Jim Gailey provided the council with a list of 37 police visits to the Super 8 motel in 2013, when they responded to domestic disputes, suicide threats and individuals refusing to leave the motel. Gailey said police visited the motel 68 times in 2012.

Tim Ly, president of MaineLy Property Management, said Monday the company is doing everything it can to improve the area and be a better neighbor to homeowners on Noyes Street. Ly said the company has picked up the yard and parking lot, removed a dumpster that was an eyesore, and got rid of a raccoon that was prowling around the area, although homeowners said they saw the raccoon Monday morning.

“We’re trying to make a better situation out of a bad situation. It was not managed correctly,” Ly said, adding that his company is “sympathetic to the issues going on.”

The company has replaced the hotel staff in an attempt to improve the living situation in the area. Super 8 closed down for a time in 2011 after a resident complained of a bed bug infestation.

Bil Moriarty, a consultant for MaineLy Property Management and Biddeford School Committee member, spoke on behalf of the company to explain the positive work it has done in the city of Biddeford. Moriarty said the company worked with the Biddeford City Council and planning board to open two businesses in the city.

“The city of Biddeford has put their faith in MaineLy Property Management because of what MaineLy Property Management has done for the city,” Moriarty said.

Councilors appreciated the efforts of the management company, but still had concerns about potential issues additional residents at the hotel may cause.

“This could be one of the easiest decisions I’ve made in the past couple years on the council,” said Councilor Patti Smith. “The proof is in the pudding, and we’ve seen over the years things that are not in the city’s best interest.”

Under the staff proposal, the city will retain more area in the land than it sells. The lots sold to the homeowners are small, all less than 6,000 square feet, while American Steel and Aluminum will purchase a 29,611-square-foot adjoining lot to help its trucks maneuver into the building without slowing down Main Street traffic. The remaining piece of city-owned land is 77,664 square feet.

Most of the revenue – 60 percent of the purchase – will be put into the city’s land bank account, which the city uses for preservation efforts.

Mayor Tom Blake stressed the need to separate emotional decisions based on the problems associated with the site from the practical matter before the council. Still, he thought the residential area along Main Street could not accommodate any more people.

“To me, this is a density issue and the area is dense enough,” Blake said.

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