Portland council set to vote on housing funding

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PORTLAND — When councilors return to their twice-monthly meeting schedule on Wednesday, Sept. 5, they will first learn about a proposed moratorium on marijuana caregiving operations.

That workshop beings at 4 p.m. in City Hall, followed by a 5:30 meeting to vote on a new contract for city firefighters and funding options for affordable housing initiatives.

A memo from the city’s Marijuana Implementation Working Group seeks “a temporary moratorium on marijuana caregiver retail stores, manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities,” as the city sorts out zoning questions and other regulatory questions for caregiver facilities and retail marijuana sales.

State legislators on July 7 overrode vetoes by Gov. Paul LePage on two bills allowing the expansion of marijuana caregiver facilities, while clarifying municipalities could make their own regulations for operations and zoning.

The moratorium would not affect caregivers now operating, or new caregivers who are not seeking to open retail operations, testing sites or manufacturing operations. Also unaffected are legal dispensaries.

“The city does not have any caregiver-specific zoning or regulation,” staff said, although state rules for caregivers are limited to serving five patients by state law.

In the meeting

In a communication item from Councilor Justin Costa, councilors will learn Auburn-based Harriman Associates was awarded a $1 million bid to be the architectural and engineering firm overseeing renovations to Lyseth Elementary School.

The school is the first of four scheduled to be renovated and upgraded with funding from a $64 million bond passed by voters in November 2017.

The new contract with International Association of Firefighters Local No. 740 covers Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. Union head Chris Thompson said the one-year deal was preferred this time as the city determines who will be the next permanent chief.

Former Chief David Jackson retired March 31. Keith Gautreau has served as acting fire chief since then.

The contract, covering about 225 firefighters, provides a 3 percent pay increase and an increase in a clothing allowance to $350. It has already been approved by the union, Thompson said.

Councilors will also allocate a mix of federal and Housing Trust funds to help pay for affordable housing at 977 Brighton Ave., 178 Kennebec St., and the Portland Housing Authority’s complex on Front Street in East Deering.

Councilors will be asked to vote on using $370,000 of Home Investment Partnerships Program funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to house people 55 and older at 178 Kennebec St. in Bayside.

The PHA Front Street renovation and expansion could receive $510,000 from the same source.

Councilors will also vote on using $925,000 from the Housing Trust Fund for the Front Street work, which will add 61 housing units to the complex while replacing 50.

Councilors will be asked to support Avesta Housing’s plan to build more than 40 units for people 55 and older at 977 Brighton Ave. with $300,000 of Housing Trust Fund money.

The Housing Trust Fund balance is now at $2.2 million. Should councilors approve the allocations, about 50 percent of the remaining Trust Fund balance of $1 million would be set aside for contingency use.

The balance is primarily funded through payments in lieu by developers of projects of more than 10 units who do not want to set 10 percent of units aside as workforce housing. The fee is $100,000 per affected unit.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 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.