2014-03-21 / Community

In the News

South Portland City Planner Tex Haeuser, center, won an eco-Excellence Award at the ecomaine annual meeting, held March 4 at the recycling facility’s site on Blueberry Road in Portland. Shown with Haeuser are, from left, Linda Boudreau, City Councilor Maxine Beecher, ecomaine CEO Kevin Roche and South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey, who also is vice-chairman of the ecomaine board of directors. (Courtesy photo) South Portland City Planner Tex Haeuser, center, won an eco-Excellence Award at the ecomaine annual meeting, held March 4 at the recycling facility’s site on Blueberry Road in Portland. Shown with Haeuser are, from left, Linda Boudreau, City Councilor Maxine Beecher, ecomaine CEO Kevin Roche and South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey, who also is vice-chairman of the ecomaine board of directors. (Courtesy photo) New restaurant slated to open

The South Portland City Council on March 17 approved a food establishment license for Los Tapatios II, a Mexican restaurant scheduled to open by the end of the month at the 671 Main St. location that once housed Tony Roma’s restaurant.

“I’m Greek, yet I have a Mexican restaurant going,” joked business owner Teddy Cotsis of Saco. “But it’s very authentic Mexican, we make our own salsa and chips. We’re very happy to be working in South Portland.”

Cotsis currently runs Los Tapatios Mexican Restaurant on Adams Street in Biddeford.

“Well, I’m pleased to see that building and that location once again having people in it,” said Councilor Maxine Beecher.

“For some reason that location has had some mixed success in the last decade,” agreed Mayor Jerry Jalbert. “Hopefully, this will change that.”

The restaurant will have a 150-person seating capacity.

City sees setback with deck

The South Portland City Council has agreed to look the other way on a setback violation that was standing in the way of a property sale at 38 Appletree Drive. In 1999, Dwayne and Michelle Masters, the former owners of the property, built a deck, for which they were retroactively granted a 2001 variance by the South Portland Board of Appeals, allowing them to keep a back deck within 5.6 feet of the property line. Generally in South Portland’s residential zones, structures may come no closer than six feet to a property line.

“I think we dealt with that variance request in about 10 minutes. It seemed very simple and straightforward,” said Mayor Jerry Jalbert, who was chairman of the board of appeals at the time.

Stanley and Catherine Scribner bought the home in 2007 and, when preparing documents recently for a resale, discovered the former owners had not recorded the variance at the Cumberland County Registry of Deeds within 90 days of the board of appeals’ decision, as required.

That, said City Manager Jim Gailey, negated the board of appeals’ decision and, under the more stringent rules in place today for “practical difficulties,” the Scribners could not simply apply for a new variance.

“We were able to discover that the actual encroachment is about four-plus inches, but we still have to deal with it,” said Jim Fisher, president of Scarborough-based Northeast Civil Solutions, an engineering firm hired by the Scribners to study the issue and lobby the city council for a consent agreement allowing the deck to remain in place.

“It is unfortunately costing the current owners some money to resolve this, but it is resolvable,” Jalbert said.

Planning director wins ‘eco’ award

Charles “Tex” Haeuser, planning director for South Portland since 1990, won an eco-Excellence Award at the March 4 ecomaine annual meeting, held March 4 at the recycling firm’s site on Blueberry Road in Portland. Haeuser was lauded for a 2012 project to install solar panels on the planning and development office at 496 Ocean St., in a deal with ReVision Energy that allowed the company to secure state and federal tax credits. South Portland has since powered the planning office at a rate that is set two cents below current energy supply costs while the city will have an option to buy the panels from ReVision in seven years for one-quarter of their initial cost.

Haeuser also last year initialed a feasibility study to build a multi-unit solar array atop the capped city landfill off Highland Avenue. In addition, he was instrumental in lobbying for a new law that requires electrical companies to provide options for street lights, including high-efficiency lights that could save South Portland up to 40 percent on its public lighting bills. That new law is currently on the docket for review by the Public Utilities Commission.

Following a successful $15,000 grant application for the lease of a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle, Haeuser is pursuing plans to convert South Portland’s fleet of 15 nonemergency vehicles over to electricity-powered engines.

Haeuser also was named Maine’s Professional Planner of the Year in 2010.

City will refinance in effort to save money

The South Portland City Council has agreed to refinance

old debt, hoping to save money on lower interest rates from when those bonds were first issued in 2004. According to City Finance Director Greg L’Heureux, the city can save about $100,680 by refinancing $1.89 million in principal still owed on bonds approved by voters in November 2003 to pay for the city’s unfunded obligation into the Maine State Retirement System. L’Heureux said he expects to conduct the bond sale in the coming weeks, at the same time he issues the remaining

$9 million in bonds of the $41.5 million approved by voters to rebuild South Portland High School.

Chief runs down fire calls

According to South Portland Fire Chief Kevin Guimond, his department responded to 300 emergency calls in February, 214 requiring emergency medical services and 85 answered by firefighters. Most of those calls (136, or 45 percent) were made on the city’s east end, while 84 (28 percent) came from the western Maine Mall area and 70 (23 percent) where made in the central Cash Corner region.

Guimond’s monthly report to the city council shows that the fire department answered 709 requests for emergency aid during the first two months of 2014 (468 EMS/240 fire) for an average of 12 calls per day.

New businesses welcomed

A March 17 report of the South Portland

code enforcement office shows the city issued seven occupancy permits in January. One was for a new single-family residence at 21 Bishop Ave., while the others were all for businesses, including Plato’s Closet, a second-hand retail store for teens and young adults, located at 333 Clark’s Pond Parkway; Partners for World Health, recycling medical supplies at 2112 Broadway; Harbor Freight Tools, a retail store at 161 Western Ave., Coastal Marine Care & Upholstery, a canvas repair shop at 14-B Cottage Road; G.M. Pollack & Sons, a new location for the jewelry store, now at 220 Maine Mall Road, unit 3; and an office for Dube Travel Agency, at 343 Gorham Road.

Conservation goals outlined

The 2013 annual report of the South Portland Conservation Commission, submitted to the city council March 17, shows three primary accomplishments for last year, with five goals set for 2014.

Last year, the commission continued to participate in the Trout Brook Management District efforts to remove the 3-mile long stream from the state’s list of urban impaired streams. A joint grant application with the Cape Elizabeth Conservation Commission failed to get funding from the Department of Environmental Protection, although Cape did get its own $182,567 project approved. Meanwhile the South Portland Commission again sponsored cleanup efforts along the Spring Point Light beaches near Southern Maine Community College for Maine Coastal Clean-Up Week and citywide for Earth Day.

Goals for 2014 include using money from South Portland’s freshwater compensation fund, which currently has a $185,674 balance, to work toward getting Barberry Creek off the “urban-impaired” list. Other planned projects include working with the city to repair drainage and trash issues in the stormwater structures near Mildred Street and Bagley Avenue, sponsoring the creation of a local Youth Conservation Corps to continue cleanup efforts along Trout Brook and developing a “best practices” handout for residential pesticide, fertilizer and composting use. The commission also plans to conduct research into tar sands to be shared with the city council, according to the annual report. Commission Chairman David Critchfield sits on the three-person draft ordinance committee created by the council to develop a means to ban tar sands from flowing into South Portland.

Street to close for August festival

The South Portland City Council on March 17 unanimously approved closing two city streets on Aug. 16 to support the second annual Buy Local Festival.

The event at Bug Light is sponsored by the South Portland/Cape Elizabeth Buy Local group, which uses the event to showcase area businesses. For the festival, Madison Street will be closed at Breakwater Drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will run from 10 am. to 2 p.m. A rain date is set for Aug. 17.

– Compiled by Contributing Writer Duke Harrington

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