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Otto Pizza likely to get slice of South Portland city land

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Otto Pizza likely to get slice of South Portland city land

SOUTH PORTLAND — A 1,500-square-foot strip of city-owned land will likely be sold to create more parking for the future Otto Pizza at 159 Cottage Road.

The consensus at Monday's City Council workshop was to allow City Manager Jim Gailey to move ahead with the proposed $4,500 sale of a triangular piece of property that is now part of the South Portland Public Library grounds.

Art Gerard, the principal owner of 159 Cottage Road LLC, will rent the former Getty station at the corner of Highland Avenue and Cottage Road to Portland-based Otto Pizza, which last month announced it is expanding to South Portland.

Gerard has been negotiating the purchase with city Economic Development Director Jon Jennings, Gailey said.

The porposed sale earned the Planning Board's endorsement last week, provided the new business maintains a buffer of vegetation no higher than 6 feet between the library land and parking lot, builds a stockade fence separating the restaurant property from abutting residential property on Highland Avenue, and keeps trees along Cottage Road.

Gailey said land sale proceeds would fund technology at the library and cover associated surveying and legal fees for the transaction, Gailey said.

The sale still requires an affirmative vote by the council.

Councilors on Monday also decided to establish an exploratory committee to determine the viability and management of a city endowment fund, while holding off on more consideration of an ordinance for such a fund.

The fund of at least $200,000 is one of Mayor Tom Blake's goals, although he said he expects that balance would not be achieved for at least a decade. The fund would use accumulated interest above the balance for capital projects. Gailey wrote a draft of an ordinance similar to the ordinance covering the land bank.

A commission to administer the fund with representatives from the five City Council districts and two at-large seats has been proposed, but Councilor Patti Smith's suggestion to create the exploratory committee for creating the fund held sway with the rest of the council.

Councilors also heard and discussed a report from Councilor Melissa Linscott and Augusta Street resident Marilyn Reilly on ways to improve participation on city boards and committees.

The committee of Reilly, School Board member Karen Callaghan, associate Energy & Recycling Committee member Robert Foster, Board of Harbor Commissioners member Bill Van Voorhis, Library Advisory Board member Linda Eastman, and Planning Board members Caroline Hendry and Bill Laidley met four times through the late winter.

The report recommended council liaisons for all committees to provide quarterly updates on committee activities, better use of social media and the city website to post committee vacancies, and substituting letters of recognition for plaques for committee members.

Reilly said she hoped councilors would also allow about 16 weeks for vacancies to be filled before informing the rest of the committee that a search had not been successful. That might allow committee members to encourage others to volunteer.

Blake said better tracking is needed for volunteers to see if they would serve on committees besides ones that drew interest, but lacked vacancies. Committees are filled by district and at-large representatives.

Councilors will hold another workshop in about six months to gauge the effectiveness of implementing the report recommendations.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.