SOUTH PORTLAND — After postponing their initial vote on ordinance changes that would effectively ban tar sands from the city, city councilors Monday approved a street closure for a Knightville block party, formed a new committee for preserving city history, and OK’d zoning changes to streamline the variance approval process for people with disabilities.
The Knightville event will take place Aug. 9, after the annual Art in the Park festival in Mill Creek Park.
Spearheaded by merchants on Ocean Street in the Knightville neighborhood, the city will close the block between C and D streets on Ocean Street to have a block party punctuated by street vendors, a classic car show, music, art exhibits and a fashion show featuring local designers.
The event will be a jump off what the city successfully achieved at Winterfest, Lisa Thompson, city recreation coordinator, told the City Council.
Councilors were supportive of the event and, if successful, said they hope it continues for years to come.
“This will extend what is usually a lovely day in that area of town,” Councilor Linda Cohen said. “The people down there are really excited about this opportunity to showcase this growing artsy area.”
Councilors also voted unanimously for a zoning amendment to streamline the process of granting variances for ramps and other structures for people with disabilities.
Championed by state Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland, from a 2013 law signed in Augusta, the new process allows the city’s code enforcement officer to approve ramps or disability structures, rather than waiting for a green light from the city Board of Appeals.
The old application process can often take several months, Morrison told the council, which he said “is way too long for someone to wait to access their home or business in a comfortable and proper manner.”
Councilors also unanimously approved the creation of the new arts and historic preservation committee.
The nine-member group will be charged with “preserving the historical and architectural integrity of South Portland, fostering beautification of public areas, and promoting the educational, cultural, economic, aesthetic value, and general welfare of South Portland,” according to the City Council.
Councilors said the panel is long overdue.
“We’ve lost (historical) places, and we have nothing in place to save these architectural gems we have,” Councilor Tom Blake, who has led history tours of the city, said.
City officials will soon begin accepting applications for residents interested in joining the committee.