Council gives Knightville parking plan final approval

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The transformation of a block of Ocean Street in Knightville was completed Monday night as the City Council approved northbound one-way traffic for a block from E to D streets.

Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis cast the sole vote against changing the traffic flow and also voted against the zoning revision that changes angled parking on the block from 60 to 45 degrees.

The council, with Councilor Tom Coward absent, was unanimous in passing the first reading of a zoning amendment allowing oversight of “nuisance properties,” and to shift $60,000 of surplus funding to rebuild the bridge leading to the Wescott Road public library branch.

The second vote amending Chapter 16 of city ordinances is expected on Oct. 15, and will allow councilors to declare properties a public nuisance after a hearing takes place. Hearings could be generated by a complaint from a municipal department head or a petition signed by 10 property taxpaying residents living within 500 feet of a property.

The ordinance revision contains 12 clauses determining what constitutes a nuisance, based on health, safety and environmental questions.

Additions to the ordinance since it was introduced at a Sept. 24 council workshop include an exclusion of composting material and a lengthy clause regarding outdoor storage of personal property that is “worn out … discarded or abandoned.”

If passed, the ordinance allows the council to designate a property a public nuisance and order a cleanup within 15 days. Fines for violating the order are found in state law and range from $100 to $2,500 per day with a cap of $5,000.

Fines can only be assessed by a court order, and city Corporation Council Sally Daggett said the real intent is to work with property owners instead of fining them.

In about 20 minutes of public comment, the ordinance drew almost unanimous support, although Gary Maietta Parkway residents April and Lenny Tracy and Main Street Sheryl Frisco urged strict enforcement.

“It can’t just be ‘here’s our ordinance,’ because we already have a few (ordinances) that people totally discard,” April Tracy said.

A note of caution was introduced by Sawyer Street resident Linda French, who was concerned the ordinance would allow neighbors with more petty disputes to pursue complaints.

“You are opening the door to an awful lot of worms. Every time you make a rule that confines some people, you take away rights from someone else,” French said.

Councilors including Tom Blake and Maxine Beecher said they understood French’s perspective, but Blake said the requirements needed for council consideration of a nuisance property met a high standard.

“I look at this as a last resort,”Blake said. “When you get 10 people that complain about something that is obnoxious, that is a pretty valid argument. This ordinance goes directly after the problem.”

The ordinance would govern all private properties in the city, but first came about because of residential complaints made to Code Enforcement Officer Pat Doucette and City Manager James Gailey.

Doucette said she has two petitions from neighbors living near 90 Anthoine Street and 119 Wythburn Road about conditions on those properties. If the council approves and enacts the ordinance at its Oct. 15 meeting, the first hearings could follow shortly after.

“I guess you are going to find out real quick if this language holds up,” Doucette said.

Replacing the bridge to the entrance of the South Portland Public Library branch on Wescott Street comprises the majority of almost $100,000 in work at the branch.

The $60,000 allocated from undesignated funds will be combined with $20,000 of library maintenance fund money to replace the closed, rusting pedestrian bridge. Library Director Kevin Davis estimated the bridge is about 35 years old. Portland-based Wright-Ryan Construction was awarded the project contract after eight bids ranging from $80,000 to $200,000 were received.

The library branch heating, ventilating and cooling systems will also be replaced at a cost of $17,000. Damon Mechanical Services of Auburn was awarded that contract.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.