Portland council delays vote on sale of land at Westbrook line

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PORTLAND — The sale of nearly 5 acres of land straddling the city’s border with Westbrook joined the list of things left undecided by councilors Monday night.

While the council moved swiftly and unanimously to support a resolution condemning hate crimes in the aftermath of the shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and a supermarket in Louisville, much of its agenda included first readings on proposals to be taken up again Nov. 19.

A vote on the $11,000 land sale to Waterstone Properties Group was postponed to Dec. 17 on a motion from Councilor Brian Batson, who said he will be meeting with Nason’s Corner residents at the end of the month to talk about the sale.

The parcel sits between the Portland/Westbrook boundary and the Maine Turnpike, and would be incorporated into the mixed-use development Waterstone is building in Westbrook.

The sale was recommended unanimously Oct. 16 by the council Economic Development Committee, led by Councilor Justin Costa.

“It is largely nonvaluable land except to someone who might want to preserve sight lines,” Costa said.

In an Oct. 22 memo, city Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell said the land is of no value to the city, because it lacks road frontage and has 1.8 acres of wetlands and two easements to Central Maine Power Co. that total 1.5 acres. The remaining 1.53 acres are not contiguous.

Councilor Belinda Ray supported postponing the vote, saying she wants to be certain the land could not be developed, or even be used as open space for city residents.

After City Manager Jon Jennings said the sale is not time sensitive, the motion to postpone the vote passed unanimously.

In a communication to the council requiring no comment or action, Mayor Ethan Strimling’s proposal to increase fees on short-term rentals, introduced as part of budget discussions in May, was recommended not to pass.

The proposal had been referred to the council Housing Committee. Amendments to short-term rental regulations, including changes to the fee structure and how units will be counted toward a cap of 300 on mainland short-term rentals, were accepted on the first reading without comment or action.

Also accepted was an amendment to city zoning codes to establish impact fees for development, and the second part of a lease-purchase agreement to support the conversion of city street lamps to LED lighting.

Councilors also approved the order declaring Sunday, Nov. 11, as the date for the annual Veterans Day parade. Federal, state and city offices will be closed Monday, Nov. 12 to observe the holiday.

An order establishing the annual Light Up Your Holidays Festival, which begins with the Christmas Tree lighting Nov. 23 in Monument Square, also passed.

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St.

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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.