Portland City Council gives mandate to Congress Square study group
PORTLAND — The future of Congress Square will not be on the Nov. 4 ballot, but an expanded committee is now expected to provide its assessment of the property two weeks after the election.
In two brief sessions Monday that will be the only City Council meetings this month, councilors added members to the Congress Square Redesign Study Group and approved creating an advisory committee for a master plan for sustainability at the Portland International Jetport.
The council added Councilor John Hinck and a member of Friends of Congress Square to the 15-member redesign study group formed in 2008, while establishing the deadline for it to report on two possible scenarios.
The first is how Congress Square might look without the 9,500-square-foot events center owners of the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel want to build. The second is how the events center might incorporate a public park on its roof.
Those alternatives were first proposed by city Planning and Urban Development Director Jeff Levine at a July 28 City Council workshop, although the perceived narrowed scope drew objections from Hinck and Frank Turek of the Friends of Congress Square.
“It helps round out the process on Congress Square,” said Councilor Nick Mavodones Jr., who introduced the resolution with Councilor Jill Duson.
Turek said it clarified nothing.
"It is just an attempt to micromanage. It muddles the task of what is a clearly defined order,” he said in reference to the 2008 council order creating the study group.
Holm Avenue resident Robert Hains asked councilors to expand the scope of the resolution.
“Let the group do its work, let their imaginations roam, they may come up with an option that is better liked by everybody,” Hains said.
Duson and Mavodones said their intent is not to prevent the group from considering a range of options.
“It is not intended to be prescriptive, it is a minimum not a maximum,” Duson said. “I just want us to turn away from focusing on what we don't agree on.”
In September 2013, councilors voted 6-3 to sell two-thirds of Congress Square to hotel owners RockBridge Capital for $524,000. The sale was effectively blocked by a June 10 referendum that added Congress Square to the city land bank and requiring eight councilors to approve a sale that would not face a referendum vote.
Councilors unanimously approved the resolution creating the 24-member advisory committee to draft a master plan to encourage sustainable uses of the Jetport.
The committee would include members from South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Westbrook, one resident from each of city Districts 1-3, business representatives, possibly from WEX, Idexx Laboratories and Unum, and Jetport and airline representatives.
Jetport Director Paul Bradbury said the plan would update the current master plan and consider how airport operations could use alternative fuels for vehicles, improve recycling by airlines servicing the Jetport, and continue to recapture chemicals used to de-ice planes in the winter.