2016-05-20 / Front Page

City council sets workshop schedule

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland City Council has tentatively set its schedule for upcoming workshop meetings though July. While the council can, and often does, change that to-do list, the sequence adopted by the council Monday, May 9 helps clarify what issues are on its radar.

The May 23 agenda calls for a review of substandard building lots – the city recently lost a court case in which Thornton Heights resident Devon Deane challenged home construction allowed on small subdivision lot – and for taking up a zoning change request in the Brickhill development, at 675 Westbrook St. Developer Richard Berman has asked the council to expand the number of allowable living spaces so he can build a 120- unit complex.

The council also had reserved time on May 23 to discuss a zoning change requested for the St. John’s Church property on Main Street. However, that’s fallen off the table as developer Kerry Anderson has since withdrawn his application with the planning and development office. Anderson could not be reached for comment, but city officials say his the time limit on a purchase and sale agreement with building owner Cafua Management has run out – a timeframe City Manager Jim Gailey has called unusually short.

The council’s June 13 workshop will be a field trip to visit various streams and waterways in the city. The council will depart from the city hall parking lot at 6:30 p.m. Gailey said in a May 12 email the exact itinerary for the trip was still in the works.

On June 27, the council will conduct a workshop on sensitivity training surrounding “structural racism.” Councilor Brad Fox requested the topic following an April 11 planning board meeting, at which board Chairman William Laidley said of Berman’s Brickhill proposal, “I think it’s a great project for the time and the space. It makes it seem like less of a ghetto.” Fox has faulted Laidley for the comment, saying it was fraught with “racial undertones.” Also penciled in for June 27, the council will solicit an update on an open space comprehensive plan, currently under development, and formalize the process by which it reviews its three direct-hires – the city attorney, city clerk and city manager.

The July 11 workshop is slated to include a discussion on the Portland Street Pier. According to Gailey, “The conversation is around the feasibility of expanding our slips at the facility in hopes of attracting and supporting the up-and-coming aquaculture industry that is becoming very strong within our region.

“The facility’s slips have always been geared toward the working waterfront and not recreational boaters,” he said.

Currently scheduled for the June 23 workshop date is a review of the council’s standing rules. Councilor Eben Rose, who requested the agenda item, said that session should have “a particular emphasis on codifying unwritten rules.”

Two items currently on tap only as “summer 2016” discussion items include review of a proposed ordinance regulating the use of pesticides and herbicides within city limits, and an update to the city’s climate action plan.

Items that have not yet been given a specific workshop date include air quality monitoring (Gailey said he is waiting to hear back from the Environmental Protection Agency); when and if individual councilors may solicit advice from City Attorney Sally Daggett (there’s an apparent conflict between council policy and city ordinance on that score); and how South Portland handles information requests filed under the Maine Freedom of Access Act.

Other future workshop items include updates on the acquisition of “Old Joe’s Pond,” a collection of six lots totaling 3.8 acres, located between Harriet and North Mariner streets, and potential rezoning of the Hill Street tank farm and an outstanding recommendation of the ad-hoc draft ordinance committee which wrote the Clear Skies Ordinance that banned “tar sands” oil from South Portland.

Two final items on the list of future workshop agendas but not yet scheduled for discussion are a “complete streets” ordinance – designed to improve access for walkers and bicyclists – and amendments to the Mill Creek zoning district – which the city hopes will increase its functionality as a mixed-use neighborhood, adding more residences to the current slate of commercial interest.

Dates and topics for any particular workshop may change. Or, as Gailey notes, “the workshop list is always a moving target.”

Final workshop agendas are posted on the city website (southportland.org), usually on the Friday afternoon prior to the Monday meeting date.

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