Pier Returns to City Council Agenda & Misleading PPH Article Corrected

 

By Carol McCracken

The community development committee voted yesterday to forward several motions regarding the redevelopment of the Maine State Pier to the city council for consideration next Monday.

The first motion to be passed asks the city council to accept the “Term Sheet” – a document, which when approved by both parties, will become the basis for all future negotiations for this redevelopment. In opposition to this motion, Tony Armstrong, a supporter of Ocean Properties, stated that the CDC was moving too fast by forwarding this document on to the city council for action August 8th. This statement was rejected by Chairwoman Leeman.

A second motion passed by the CDC for city council consideration next week is that the construction of the megaberth and the redevelopment of the Maine State Pier be separated from each other and built independently of each other – the construction of the megaberth was added to the RFP just days before selection of Olympia as developer was announced.

Prior to the passage of these two motions, there was extensive discussion on issues ranging from penalties for lack of performance by the developer, whether or not the state or the city of Portland owns title to the submerged seabed, whether or not the developer has secured financing from banks, and whether or not the developer had signed any tenants for the project. Sasha Cook, representing developer Olympia, said the company has talked to a number of potential hotels and other tenants for the project and there is interest, although he did not name names.  Cook was equally silent on some of the funding questions posed to him by CDC members.

One member of the CDC called Cook’s responses “woofy” with a dismissive shrug of his shoulders. James Broder, negotiating attorney for the city, responded – the developer is under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to disclose any information about potential financing or possible tenants until the Master Development Agreement is executed – until Olympia has a signed contract in hand.

Another important clarification for the CDC was an article in the “Portland Press Herald” on Saturday, August 9th. The article ’Portland to Issue Bond to Help Fix Maine State Pier’  implied that the city would be helping to finance the project. Chairwoman Leeman denied that any city money would be put into this project. Rearguing the case for his former company, Ocean Properties, in the same article,  Robert Baldacci, questioned removing the megaberth from the overall redevelopment.  (Baldacci is  one of several potential purchasers of the “Portland Press Herald”).  In his rebuttal of what at times seemed like a bunch of “we gottcha now” questions from some CDC members, Sasha Cohen, of Olympia, said “It is our responsibility to finance this project.”

In yet another wrinkle, prior to the late afternoon meeting yesterday, councilor David Marshall, who supported Olympia said: “I’m not convinced that we’ll find a majority of the council supporting the megaberth as our top infrastructure need.”