Planning Board Hears Professor Monsour on His Application for Zone Change for Williston West

Peter Murray: "We thought it was for a benign use of this property. We didn't expect this."

Professor Frank Monsour Made His Case to the Planning Board on His Zoning Application

By Carol McCracken (Post # l,126)

Professor Frank Monsour appeared before the city’s planning board late yesterday afternoon to make his case as to why it should recommend to the city counsel that it act favorably upon Monsour’s application for a zoning change; a change that would permit him to establish office space for his start-up company, build a substantial home for his family and caretaker’s unit on the site of the historic Williston West Church on the west end of Portland.

Monsour, 74, told the planning board that if the requirements for the zone change are reasonable, he will go through with the restoration of the former Church. However, he was careful not to threaten to withdraw the application throughout the almost three hour meeting. He cited his own interest in preservation of historical locations and his desire to do the same at Williston. All of his financial dealings so far and until the council approves the zoning change, must be cash since no bank will back him until the zoning change is made.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, seventeen testified in opposition to the zoning change and twelve testified in its favor. The most dramatic testimony came from Peter Murray, a member of the church’s board of trustees who made the decision to sell the historic property to Dr. Monsour last year. “I feel terrible the Board sold the church to this individual. We had one other interested person…we thought it was for a benign use of this property. We didn’t expect this. I apologize to everyone.”

Following the meeting, Edward Herszwg, a commercial realtor, who was one of the conference call participants that negotiated the sale said: “It was clear that Professor Monsour was purchasing this property as a residence, office space and that there would be a staff presence on site. There was never any doubt as to his intention.” Professor Monsour purchased the property in late December for $700,000. in cash. The church board refused to make the sale contingent upon the approval of the zoning change said Professor Monsour.

A public hearing before the planning board is expected to be held next month with the matter going to the city council is June. Professor Monsour will be traveling to the west coast on business the end of this week, but will return to Portland for the city council meeting in June.

For more background information, please see Post # 1,002, dated March 14, herein.