2014-07-11 / Community

Council forms preservation committee

By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer

Although members of the South Portland City Council often complain about having too few volunteers, members voted July 7 to create a new nine-member panel.

The Arts and Historic Preservation Committee will include one representative from the South Portland Historical Society and one from Greater Portland Landmarks, providing each is a South Portland resident, in addition to seven at-large members.

However, no more than three of the nine members can live in the same voting ward.

According to City Manager Jim Gailey, the new group will have “specific responsibilities to preserve the historical and architectural integrity of South Portland, foster beautification of public areas, and promote the educational, cultural and general welfare of South Portland.”

South Portland’s 2012 Comprehensive Plan update called on the creation of an “arts commission," a goal Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings was already work- ing toward last year when Greater Portland Landmarks cited the entire city on its annual “Places in Peril” list.

Resulting calls for an historic preservation initiative were then folded into the arts commission plan.

“We have no system in place to protect our architectural and historical treasures,” said Councilor Tom Blake at Monday’s meeting, suggesting a draft for an historic preservation ordinance could be an early work product of the new group.

However, before that, the committee will need to find at least five members to form a quorum.

“It will probably take a couple of months for us to ramp up to that first meeting,” said Gailey.

While the task of creating an historic preservation committee is underway, the South Portland City Council is not waiting around to begin work on protecting signifi- cant properties.

On Monday, the council unanimously adopted the first reading of ordinance updates that will make developers submit plans for protecting both “historic and archeological” features, as well as vernal pools.

The amendments defines vernal pools — wet areas that support wildlife in the spring before drying up in the summer — as well as historic and archeological resources.

Essentially, the definition says an historic or archeologically significant feature or building is whatever the city council says it is, once it votes to include the item on an approved list, if not already identified by the city’s comprehensive plan.

The proposed rules would call on developers to include a plan for mitigating disruption to vernal pools as a part of any subdivision application.

A “narrative” also will be required stating how items on the historic and archeological features list, once created, will be preserved.

Or, if a listed item is pegged for demolition, the developer will have to include in the subdivision application “a statement ... as to why the resource cannot be preserved and the options considered but rejected for including it as part of the development plan.”

A final vote on the new rules is scheduled for the July 21 city council meeting.

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