Portland City Council Weekly Roundup for August 21–25, 2017

Citizen initiatives make it onto the ballot, a ban on tiny houses, selling land for the Wex headquarters, a presentation on the $16 million waterfront park, and property tax relief for seniors.


> Monday, August 21 @ 4pm and 6pm — City Council Meeting

City Hall, Council Chambers (2nd floor to the left)

Key agenda items:

  • 4pm Meeting: Discussion of the Citizen Initiative process. (Earlier this month it was revealed that the City Clerk had given an incorrect due date for signatures to this year’s hopeful citizen initiative campaigns. Learn more about that here.) Public comment will NOT be taken.
  • 4pm Meeting: Vote to take 32 “paper streets” — unmaintained city streets that in some cases exist only on paper — off the books. Most of these streets are already located within existing City parks or green spaces. Public comment MAY be taken (I’m not sure, it’s not clear).
  • 4pm Meeting: Discussion and vote on a proposed ordinance banning the long-term use of “recreational shelters” — including things like RVs, tents, and mobile “tiny-houses”. Public comment MAY be taken (I’m not sure, it’s not clear).
  • 4pm Meeting: Vote to sell a parcel of land on the Eastern Waterfront to a developer with the intention of building a new headquarters for technology company Wex. Public comment WILL be taken.
  • 4pm Meeting: First reading of a proposed ordinance change that would instate a 2-strike rule for disorderly short term rentals (e.g. Airbnbs). If a house is reported as “disorderly”, the City Manager may revoke the house’s permit to operate as a short term rental. Public comment will NOT be taken; this item will be voted on at the next meeting.
  • 4pm Meeting: First reading of proposed zoning changes to grant density and height “bonuses” to developers of affordable housing. (For example, if a developer commits to selling 20% of new housing units at “affordable” prices, requirements for height and unit size could be loosened, so the developer can build more units and make the development more profitable.) Public comment will NOT be taken; this item will be voted on at the next meeting.
  • 4pm Meeting: First reading of a proposed zone change to permit a 70-foot-tall cold storage facility on the Western Waterfront. (There has been much controversy over this development, which is being pushed by the State of Maine and commercial shipping interests, and opposed by many in the surrounding West End Neighborhood. You can read more about this issue here.) Public comment will NOT be taken; this item will be voted on at the next meeting.
  • Executive Session to discuss the possibility of entering into a lawsuit with opioid manufacturers and distributors. This brief session is not open to the public.
  • 6pm Meeting: The City Council will formally put the “Fair Rent Portland” rent stabilization and “Neighborhood Voices” zoning petition referenda on the ballot in November. Read more about these citizen initiatives here. Public comment MAY be taken, but don’t count on it.

Read the agenda and associated materials for the 4pm meeting here and for the 6pm meeting here.


> Tuesday, August 22 @ 5:30pm — Economic Development Committee

City Hall, Room 209 (2nd floor to the left)

Key agenda items:

  • Presentation on the proposed “Portland Landing” park on the Western Waterfront. The Press Herald has reported that this project may cost up to $16 million, and will include sailing facilities and better-maintained green space. Some have criticized the project’s cost, and others are concerned that creating a public park in this space will prevent the return of passenger rail to the Peninsula via the active rail corridor on the site (where the Narrow Gauge Railroad currently operates) which extends to Brunswick and beyond. Read more about the proposed project here. Public comment will NOT be taken.
  • Vote to sell a parcel of City-owned land on 56 Parris Street in Bayside to a private developer. The developer intends to build 20 400-square foot, one-bedroom condos on the site, priced at less than $200,000 each. (Go to page 26 in the associated materials to see the proposal.) Public comment WILL be taken on this item.
  • 90-minute discussion of the Mayor’s proposed changes to the City’s Tax Increment Financing (TIFs, i.e. tax breaks) policy. Public comment will NOT be taken.

Read the agenda and associated materials here.


> Thursday, August 24 @ 5:30pm — Joint School Board & City Council Finance Committee Meeting

City Hall, Room 209 (2nd floor to the left)

Key agenda items:

  • The members of the City Council and the School Board will discuss how to allocate the roughly $1 million in additional funds the School Department will be receiving from the State. These funds were not expected in the Governor’s proposed budget, but were received as a result of the “compromise” budget that was reached. Read more about this issue here. Public comment will NOT be taken.
  • The City Council Finance Committee will continue to discuss the property tax relief “circuit breaker” program proposed earlier this summer by Mayor Strimling. Public comment will NOT be taken.

Read the (very scant) agenda here.