South Portland council delays Roosevelt School sale talks

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday declined to penalize a Stone Drive property owner for violating city setback ordinances, approved a substantial furniture purchase for South Portland High School, and postponed consideration of offers to buy the former Roosevelt School.

With Councilor Al Livingston absent, councilors voted 6-0 against fining and seeking reimbursements for legal costs from Robert Pratt, who bought the Stone Drive property in April and renovated it for resale.

City Code Enforcement Officer Patricia Doucette sought council action because Pratt tore down a pantry at the rear of the house, which also sits in Cape Elizabeth, then rebuilt a bathroom that was not shown on the city-issued building permit. He also built it on the property line, instead of the required six feet back.

Noting a lack of malice by Pratt and his son-in-law, Bob McNally, and the $4,000 they spent for a boundary survey after the violation was discovered, councilors decided additional financial penalties were not necessary.

There is no requirement to remove the bathroom, and Cape Elizabeth Code Enforcement Officer Benjamin McDougall said the town will not require Pratt to get a building permit.

“It doesn’t seem to me the property owner could have won no matter what he did,” Councilor Linda Cohen said.

Councilors were also unanimous in support of awarding a $462,000 bid to Creative Office Supply of Portland for desks, chairs, tables and file cabinets for teachers and administrators at the renovated and expanded high school.

The purchases are actually made through a state purchasing contract with the company, funded by money from the $41 million school construction bond approved by voters in 2010.

Superintendent of Schools Suzanne Godin said the purchases are the last large-scale ones needed for the school. About $950,000 of $1.2 million budgeted for furnishings has been spent, Godin said the remainder will be set aside for contingency purchases.

With three bids received for the 86-year-old former Roosevelt School at 217 Pine St., councilors agreed in a post-meeting workshop that more public input is needed before they decide the fate of the building.

A workshop was scheduled for 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 13, at the Community Center at 21 Nelson Road. Bidders Hardypond Construction, Anew Real Property and the South Portland Housing Authority will each be given 15 minutes to present their concepts for converting the building to housing.

Mayor Tom Blake said timing of the workshop Monday was unfair to neighbors of the school, which was leased by Spurwink from 1985 through the summer of 2012.

“We should maximize public participation,” Blake said. He asked that residents be contacted by phone messages to notify them of the hearing.

Bids range from a low of $24,000 by Portland-based Hardypond to $525,000 from the housing authority. Each proposal would require a zoning variance for population density from the Planning Board.

The Hardypond and Anew proposals call for fewer than 20 market-rate condominiums at the 18,000 square-foot, three-story school, with additions. Plans for both are to market the condominiums to residents age 40 and older.

The South Portland Housing Authority would like to convert the school and an addition to 40 units for residents 55 and older.

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

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.