City Announces Two Public Forums About Relaxation of Waterfront Zoning; 3/2 & 3/3

Steve DiMillo, Charlie Poole and Dick Ingalls at a planning board meeting last fall

Steve DiMillo, Charlie Poole and Dick Ingalls at a planning board meeting last fall

By Carol McCracken (Post # 396)

The City of Portland has announced there will be two public forums next month to garner public feedback on the possible relaxation of the city’s zoning ordinance for the “WCZ” of the waterfront. The first forum will be held on March 2, from 7 pm until 9 pm at the Merrill Auditoirium Rehearsal Hall, Myrtle Street entrance. The second forum will be held on March 3, same time and same place. “WCZ” is the waterfront central zone and runs from the Maine State Pier to the International Port at the other end of Commercial Street.

These two forums are a continuation of a process begun last fall when three representatives of a coalition of eleven wharf owners began looking for more flexibility in the city’s ordinance as to whom they can rent to and whom they can’t rent their property to. At that time, Bill Needleham, presented a detailed process that was to have begun last month for this review to take place. Also, at the time, then planning board chair, David Silk, said such requests for changes would require a complete review of the city’s comphrehensive plan. Last October, then planning board vice chair and current chair, Bill Hall, said he believed that “some changes are needed” in the ordinance. The three representatives of the coalition last fall were Steve DiMillo, DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant & Marina, Charlie Poole whose family owns Union Wharf and Dick Ingalls, former chairman of the Harbor Commission.

The current zoning ordinance prevents owners from renting ground floors of buildings to non-marine businesses, allows only commercial docking space at the wharfs and requires parking on the piers for new developments and businesses. (The current ban on hotels and condominiums would remain under the proposed text amendment of the “WCZ” coalition.) That ordinance was passed seventeen years ago to protect the waterfront from hotel and condominium development. Specifically, it was in response to the building of the condo, Chandler’s near DiMillo’s Restaurant.

Whether or not to develop the waterfront and to what extent has long been a controversial subject for many residing on the Hill.

Last fall Steve DiMillo expressed frustration as to how slow this process has been. “However, the city’s planning office staff has been really great to work with,” he said earlier today.

For more background information, please visit post # 336, dated November 25th, post # 320, dated November 6th and post # 312, dated October 28th.