City Outlines Approval Process for St. Lawrence Theater Expansion; “I’m Disappointed Not More People Showed Up,” Carmona

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,299)

Barbara Barhydt, Acting Planning Division Director for Portland,  was the featured speaker at the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization quarterly meeting this evening.  At the outset, she said she was invited by Ralph Carmona, MHNO board member, to specifically describe the process that the historic St. Lawrence must follow in order to build a 400+ seat theater in what was once the sanctuary of this former Congregational Church on the Hill.  Barhydt said  she ususally doesn’t focus on the process in public meetings “because it’s boring.”

Following her ten or so minute presentation, Barhydt took questions from the  audience of maybe 25 people in attendance.  The first comment came from Stephen Gaal who is a member of the newly formed Concerned Citizens of Munjoy Hill, (CCMH) who said that while it respects the work of Deidre Nice, founder and executive director of the St. Lawrence, it has concerns.  Gaal asked what is the best way “to have influence with the city?” Barhydt responded that both emails and letters are persuasive.  Ross Fields another Concerned Citizen asked whether the 2010 Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan could be redone.  Can changes be made as a result of public comment? Barhydt said yes. “The City does listen to concerns from the community.”

On February 11, the CCMH sent a three page letter to Deidre Nice, requesting detailed information from the Board.  The group asked for a copy of the St. Lawrence’s Market Needs Study, a copy of the overall revenue plan with five specific questions and a revised parking plan with four specific questions; ie where will people wait for the shuttle in foul or freezing weather? A letter of frivolous questions because many of them go beyond the purview of the city’s responsibilities, not to mention the neighborhood’s “need to know.”  This from eight people who apparently believe they are entitled  to more detailed answers to  questions than the city is.

MHNO Board member Ralph Carmona and member of the CCMH facilitated the meeting.  Since  most of the audience asking the questions were from among the 8 members of the CCMH, it was clear  the meeting was intended to see how best the eight can impede/block the  future plans  of the St. Lawrence.  The meeting  was  well advertised in local newspapers to attract other like minded people. Although it may have been helpful in  developing strategies to further polarize the community, it probably failed to win new supporters.  Many of the maybe 25  attending were MHNO board members and others with  agendas differing from that of the  CCMH.

“I was disappointed not more people showed up,” said Carmona following the meeting.

The eight core members of the CCMH include:  Tim Baehr, Ralph Carmona, Vana Carmona, Ross Fields, Stephen Gaal, Cliff Gallant, Maix Greco and Ann Landsberg.  The MHNO currently has 70 members and  is seeking ways to increase its membership numbers.

For more background information, please visit the following posts herein:  Post # 1,288, dated 2/6/13; Post # 1,233, dated 12/10/12 and Post # 1,230, dated 12/5/12.