Portland seeks affordable housing projects on Munjoy Hill, Cliff Island

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PORTLAND — Affordable housing on Munjoy Hill and Cliff Island got a boost when the City Council Housing and Community Development Committee gave the go-ahead for efforts to sell city-owned properties.

The committee, with Councilor Kevin Donoghue as chairman, on Nov. 12 gave Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell permission to negotiate with members of Sustainable Cliff Island on selling a home and fuel depot the city took over for delinquent taxes.

The committee also allowed Housing and Community Development Division Director Mary Davis to seek requests for proposals for the sale and development of a city-owned, 6,800-square-foot parking lot at 65 Munjoy St.

“We are right at the starting gate with negotiations,” Mitchell said Nov. 13 of a request received in September from members of Sustainable Cliff Island offering to buy property at 16 Fisherman’s Cove for $10,000.

The city took the 19,500-square-foot Cliff Island property from Holly Kessinger and Bruce Reith of West Buxton for delinquent taxes dating to 2008. The accrued back taxes and interest are more than $53,500, Mitchell said in a memo to the committee.

On the property are a 1,040-square-foot home built in 1910 and a 64-year-old, 400-square-foot building used as a store.

Mitchell noted the city would absorb the remainder of the delinquent taxes by accepting the $10,000 offer, but members of Sustainable Cliff Island also committed to spend $300,000 over the next two years.

The spending includes replacing outdated fuel tanks with new, double-walled tanks. The group also plans to upgrade the septic system, renovate the house as a rental property, rebuild the former grocery store to serve as a convenience store, and rebuild the wharf and install a float to supply fuel and other items to recreational boaters.

Members of Sustainable Cliff Island, including President Cheryl Crowley, Vice President Bob Howard, Secretary Eric Anderson and Treasurer Roger Berle, expect to spend $30,000 for the purchase and initial site cleanup and associated permit and legal fees, according to the group’s proposal.

They will also commission a second-phase environmental assessment on the property. Each board member has contributed financially to the group, now in the process of becoming a registered nonprofit.

“Each of the four directors has at least three generations of Cliff Island history behind them,” according to their proposal.

The group has received seed funding from the Cliff Island Association and the Island Institute will act as the group’s financial agent until the IRS approves its nonprofit status.

Mitchell said the proposal from Sustainable Cliff Island was the only one received for the property.

“We went to some extraordinary lengths in terms of public notice,” he said.

On the mainland, a preliminary deadline of Jan. 12, 2015, has been set for proposals for the Munjoy Street lot, City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said Nov. 13.

A memo by Davis said the lot was once considered part of the redevelopment plan for the former Adams School, which has been converted to condominiums.

A feasibility study of the property by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based, Bluestone Planning Group suggests two, three-story buildings with two- and three-bedroom units as the most viable option for the property.

The units would be targeted to owners making 100-120 percent of the area median wage, which runs between $62,000 and $93,000, depending on the number of family members.

The preliminary draft of the request for proposals for 65 Munjoy St. indicates proposals will be scored at 25 points each for financial feasibility and use of resources to achieve city goals, 20 points for the ability to complete the project and 30 points for “impact on the surrounding neighborhood, including design compatibility and environmental issues.”

Those interested in filing an RFP can reach Davis at 874-8711 or mpd@portlandmaine.gov.

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

A house and former store now owned by the city could be sold to a group from Cliff Island for restoration and continued use as a fuel depot. City Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell has been given the go-ahead by City Councilors to negotiate a deal with Sustainable Cliff Island.

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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.