Results of Focus Groups to be Compiled; Reported to Planning Board and to Public On-line Soon…

Bill Needleman, city's senior planner, at a planning board meeting recently.

Bill Needleman, city's senior planner, at a planning board meeting recently.

By Carol McCracken (Post # 405)

Setting the tone for the second and final forum on the waterfront central zone last night, was a comprehensive overview of the policies and the zoning process itself currently in place. The presentation was given by the city’s senior planner, Bill Needleman. Following his presentation, the 60 or so members of the public broke up into eight focus groups to express their opinions on the waterfronnt and its future.

In his introductory remarks, Needleman said, in part: that the comprehensive plan has not been reviewed since its inception in 1992. That fact combined with the application of the coalition of wharf owners for relief made this review timely.

Needlemen went on to say that the central waterfront is a mixed use area as it stands now. Fishing, marine tourism, retail, restaurants, marine research and environmental services are some of the interests already functioning in the central waterfront zone.

Generally, the current zoning ordinance functions to preserve the water’s edge for berthing, preserve property with direct water access and should be reserved exclusively for marine use, permit marine compatible uses on other property that does not interfere in any way with water dependent uses and promote public access and environmentally responsible practices.

The eight focus groups were asked to respond to the three following questions:

1. Curent policy protects working waterfront uses in the central waterfront: Have these policies helped or hindered economic viability for the district and the city?

2. The pier owner’s proposal would allow new development options in the central waterfront: How would significant non-marine development on the waterfront impacat the district and the city as a whole?

3. Portland has a unique mix of uses and assets along the central waerfront: What elements should be retained and what elements new elements can be added?

The results of these focus groups will be compiled and forwarded to the planning board. They will also be made available to the public on-line at some point.

Meanwhile, representatives of the wharf owners coalition will have an opportunity to present their proposal to the planning board on Tuesday, March 9th at 3:30 pm. Public comment will be taken then. The meeting is at the city hall, room 209, second floor.

Please visit Post # 404, dated March 3rd, for more background information on the subject.