2016-05-06 / Community

In the Know

DRONE WARS — According to South Portland Mayor Tom Blake, a plan to regulate so-called aerial drones is working its way through city hall. Blake said at the May 2 city council meeting that a resident raised the issue in an email. Orchard Street resident Patricia Whyte rose near the end of the council’s April 20 meeting to ask that it ban the use of drones from Bug Light Park, which is within five-miles of Portland International Jetport, a radius around which drones are banned by the Federal Aviation Administration. “When aircraft come in over the Fore River they are pretty low. This is an accident waiting to happen,” she said.

SENSATIVITY TRAINING — South Portland City Councilor Brad Fox has issued a call for a workshop on sensitivity training for all elected and appointed officials, following remarks made by Planning Board Chairman William Laidley at an April 12 meeting. At that session, the board was reviewing an application by developer Richard Berman, on behalf of Riverbrook Properties, to amend zoning at 675 Westbrook St. Berman, who wants to build on the last remaining lot of the Brickhill subdivision, sought to increase the number of residential units allowed in order to construct a 120-unit housing complex. “I think it’s a great project for the time and the space,” Laidley said. “It makes it seem like less of a ghetto.” That comment left Fox feeling “very disturbed,” he said, in a May 2 email to his fellow councilors. “The west end of South Portland is a diverse and thriving community of hard working, tax paying residents like those in the rest of South Portland,” Fox wrote. “We don't have gangs, and our kids play outside in the safety of a community that cares about them and watches over them. We have beautiful parks and trails and recreational facili- ties. It was outrageous of the chairman to characterize our community as a ‘ghetto,’ with all of the negative connotations, including the racial undertones, that that word connotes.”

TRAIL HOPES — According to South Portland Mayor Tom Blake, the city’s trails advisory group met recently to discuss how to gain access to the 8.40-acre Barberry Creek Woods. Located near the intersection of Broadway and Evens Street, adjacent to the Greenbelt Trail, Barberry Woods is an inaccessible part of the Forest City Cemetery, which is owned by the City of Portland. “We are trying to gain access to that to enhance our municipal parks system,” Blake said at the May 2 city council meeting. “So, you’ll be hearing more about that in the future.” The site would provide more than 2,800 feet of deeply wooded trails, but Blake, who has called the site “the eighth wonder of the world,” also says negotiations to gain access, which have labored on and off for three decades, is “one of the most frustrating endeavors I have ever been involved in.”

SPRING POINT DEAL NEAR — According to South Portland City Councilor Claude Morgan, who serves as council liaison to the Spring Point Lease Committee, that group is “very, very close to completing its work.” Speaking at the May 2 council meeting, Morgan said, “I hope that certainly within a month, and maybe even sooner, we may find in front of us a motion for the acceptance of this new lease. I think the citizens will be very pleased.” The current city contract with Port Harbor Marine, which expires in April 2020 and has been called “a sweetheart deal” by some, calls on a lease of $30,000 per year, or 1 percent of total marina rental fees and sales, excluding boat sales.

ROAD CLOSURE — Helping residents plan their detours in advance, the South Portland City Council voted unanimously May 2 to close Cummings Road between Payne Road and Running Hill Road for an unspecified 17-day period during September. “This is a significant construction project,” City Manager Jim Gailey said, noting that the road is “at water level” with “significant wetland on either side. The road will be raised 3 feet as part of a joint $1.3 million project with the town of Scarborough. Bids to do the work will be opened May 10 at city hall.

DUMP DAYS — The South Portland Transfer Station will be open every Sunday during May, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. “It’s time to get that spring fever going,” City Manager Jim Gailey said at the May 2 city council meeting. But, if you’d rather not add gently used items to the waste stream, the city’s public works department plans to open a new “swap shop” sometime toward the end of May. Volunteers are needed to man the facility. Anyone interested in helping out should call public works at 767-7635 for more information.

– Compiled by Staff Writer Duke Harrington

A look at issues coming down the road in South Portland.

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