PORTLAND — The establishment of a halfway house for recovering alcoholics was among the top concerns of Rosemont neighborhood residents who held a tense meeting with city officials Monday night in the St. Ansgar Church basement.
Residents also complained about speeding cars, loud parties, public urination, profanity and intravenous drug needles littering the streets.
City Councilor Edward Suslovic struggled to maintain order during the two-hour meeting, which was attended by more than 50 residents, police officers, city planners and councilors. It frequently devolved into shouting matches between residents and representatives for the landlord who owns two of the three buildings most often labeled as problems.
By the end of the evening, however, more than a dozen residents and landlords expressed interest in forming a neighborhood watch program to work out their issues, many of which did not seem to rise to the level of criminal activity.
The meeting was called in response to issues raised during a District 3 neighborhood meeting at Deering High School in September.
Michelle Lautour, a citizen coordinator for Portland’s community policing program, said a duplex at 41-43 Columbia Road, owned by Adam Nice, has generated 28 calls for service in 2010.
Lautour said the complaints are primarily coming from one neighbor. Only five complaints were substantiated by police, meaning officers either issued a warning, citation or restored the peace, she said.
Attorney Mike Vailliancourt, who represented Nice at the meeting, said his client is willing to work with the city and neighbors to address concerns.
“But we will not cede to unreasonable demands of one neighbor,” he said.
Residents of the apartment building said the repeated, unsubstantiated calls from the neighbor amounted to harassment.
“At what point does this become harassment?” asked Jen Rothbart, who lives at 43 Columbia Road. “I just want to be left alone.”
Adeline and Earl Allen, who live at 47 Columbia Road, said they haven’t called police recently. But they expressed frustration about problems caused by previous tenants at the home more than 1 1/2 years ago.
The Allens, however, said they are more concerned about the halfway house called Atlantic Rehab that is being run without the city’s permission another duplex owned by Nice at 33-35 Columbia Road.
They complained about the number of people living in the home and an abundance of cars with out-of-state license plates.
Planning and Development Director Penny Littell said a single residence can have up to 16 residents without violating the law, as long as it is not part of a profit-making enterprise.
Littell said code enforcers have scheduled an inspection of both properties owned by Nice on Thursday to see if the use is in compliance with the city rules.
Dan Bell, a property manager for Sullivan Properties, which took over the properties in October, said Nice is committed to having quality tenants and quality buildings.
Bell, who repeatedly gave his phone number (774-1400) to residents so they can contact him about problems, said there are 13 recovering alcoholics living in one of the duplexes at 33-35 Columbia Road. The group is supervised 24 hours a day, he said.
Lindsay Roberge, who lives at 41 Columbia, described her neighbors as “wonderful men who are quiet and helpful in the neighborhood.”
Other residents, meanwhile, complained about loud parties and disorderly behavior at other homes on Colonial Road and Merriam Street.
Police encouraged residents to call the department’s non-emergency line (874-8575) to report neighborhood disturbances. Senior Lead Officer Tim Ferris may also be reached at 650-8763.
They discouraged confrontations, even if the response time seems slow.
“If I’ve got some drunk standing across the street, throwing beer cans down, using filthy language, where women and children can hear, I’m going to go out and take the guy the on,” Colonial Road resident Asa Worcester said. “Or I’m going to call police and wait and wait and wait.”
Joe Miller, a landlord in the area, encouraged those in attendance to look beyond one or two buildings and concentrate on the neighborhood as a whole.
“I’m concerned we’re taking a pinpoint approach to a broad problem in the neighborhood,” Miller said to applause.
Suslovic collected the names of those in attendance, with the intent to schedule an organizational meeting in January for a neighborhood watch program.
“Serious questions have been raised and it’s the city’s responsibility to follow up on it,” Suslovic said. “It sounds like a neighborhood watch would facilitate communication.”
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org
City Councilor Edward Suslovic, right, facilitates a neighborhood discussion Monday night about alleged problem properties in the Rosemont neighborhood, while attorney Mike Vailliancourt, left, and property manager Dan Bell look on.