Letter: Portland falls for waterfront foolishness

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Last week the Portland Planning Board approved zoning for the western waterfront that, according to city staff, peers deep into the future: “Port opportunities likely will arrive that we do not foresee. Taller building potential provides the port with flexibility to grow.”

The new zoning will allow 450-foot-long buildings. And 300 feet can be 75 feet high – 60 percent taller than now allowed.

That’s exactly the size of a cold-storage warehouse that Americold Logistics wants to build on a foundation of manipulated data and false claims.

Nearly every other U.S. port realizes that warehouses are a foolish use of waterfront land, but the Maine Port Authority wants a huge building as its show-off crown.

Unfortunately, the International Marine Terminal lies within the city’s Waterfront Port Development Zone – where legal activities are “limited to those uses dependent upon deep water and which contribute to port activity.” And lots of the warehouse freight will never see the inside of a ship.

What to do?

Add “primarily” before “limited.” That way 49 percent of the warehouse can forever have no connection to the waterfront. And just to be safe, remove zoning language that prohibits non-maritime except “on a temporary basis.”

Naysayers may consider this rezoning to be municipal malpractice, but deep inside I think they agree it’s sensible to avoid the distraction and expense of regional logistics planning. Instead, they should join the parade of cheerleaders embracing the Port Authority’s claim of offering the only solution for regional cold storage, as we march into a beautiful future.

Cornelia Walworth
Portland

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