Sumner Park neighbors optimistic about developer's plan for Sheridan St. in Portland

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PORTLAND — A Saco developer’s plans for Sheridan Street housing that could block views from nearby Sumner Park are worrying some Munjoy Hill residents.

But Jay Norris, Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization president, on Aug. 12 said he believes a resolution can be reached.

“The plan presented is beautiful and includes workforce housing; they were very proactive in reaching out to us,” Norris said. “I have no doubt they want to be invested in the community.”

Developer Bernie Saulnier did not respond to calls seeking details about his plans for land at 153 and 165 Sumner St. He has not filed any permit or site plan requests with the city for what could be a six-story condominium project with more than 30 units.

According to preliminary plans shared by Saulnier’s representatives, engineer Will Savage and architect Ryan Senatore, Aug. 8 at the monthly MHNO meeting, the condominium project could broach the panoramic view at Sumner Park, which extends from North Street. 

Norris said the view could be blocked by as much as 1 1/2 floors of the building and knows this is unacceptable to neighbors. He said the association board is arranging a meeting with Saulnier.

“We want to be out front on this one. I don’t know these folks, but I can’t be more impressed with their willingness to sit down with us,” he said.

The outreach was suggested by Stuart “Tuck” O’Brien, who heads the city Planning Division, as a preliminary step to any filings for Planning Board review. City spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said O’Brien spoke with project representatives in a pre-application meeting.

The parcels of land, now owned by the Westbrook-based McCartney Family LLC, amount to just less than a 1/2 acre, according to city tax records. There is a single-family house at 165 Sheridan St., while 153 Sheridan St. is a vacant lot. The land is situated in a R-6 zone, which caps building heights at 45 feet, or four stories.

However, the measurement is based on the average grade of land that rises sharply up from Sheridan Street and could allow construction to cut off a portion of the sweeping view of Back Cove and the city peninsula from Sumner Park.

By contrast, six condominiums built across Sheridan Street are three stories high and do not block views from the park. A four-story condominium complex at 135 Sheridan St. on the other side of the park is largely obscured from view by trees and its roofline does not rise above the park.

Councilor Belinda Ray said when she met with Savage and Senatore on Sheridan Street, her misgivings grew when they walked  up to the park.

“It was clear immediately that this was not going to be a simple development,” she said. “It is an iconic view in the city.”

It is also a view Ray featured in her campaign literature when she ran for council last year.

“You can see five to 30 people watching the sunset here on any given night,” she said.

Anne Rand, a former state senator who served as the spokeswoman for Save the Soul of Portland, said the plans are what the group feared when it launched a failed petition drive to change city zoning last fall.

Question 1 primarily targeted the Portland Co. complex at 58 Fore St., but also sought to protect scenic views from encroachment throughout the city.

Rand said she had just heard about the Saulnier’s plans on Aug. 11.

“It was exactly the place that was in my mind, because any developer would know that is a magnificent view,”  she said.

Norris, however, does not believe the situation is dire.

“I don’t want to be reactionary. I don’t look to this as being that type of issue,” he said.

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

Saco-based developer Bernie Saulnier is interested in building condominiums on this house lot and an adjacent Sheridan Street lot on Munjoy Hill in Portland.

Some Munjoy Hill residents are concerned the view from Sumner Park off North Street in Portland could be blocked by construction of a six-story condominium project.

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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.
  • Mike

    The city should watch out for Saulnier. He has tens of thousands of dollars in liens on his other projects in Saco and Old Orchard Beach. It is all public record they should thoroughly vet this project before dealing with this developer.