The Portland Phoenix

Internet outage ends Portland council meeting before Munjoy Hill vote

The Portland City Council on Monday postponed the debate over reconsideration of its rejection of a proposed Munjoy Hill Historic District after a widespread internet outage interrupted the remote meeting.

The discussion is now scheduled for Monday, April 12.

The outage occurred around 5:30 p.m., not long after councilors began their meeting. They made it through just a few agenda items before Spectrum customers throughout Maine and New Hampshire lost internet and cable TV services.

A map showing the boundary of the proposed historic district within the broader Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District in orange. (Source: City of Portland)

The Munjoy Hill Historic District vote was slated for later in the evening, along with a presentation on the city’s 11 other historic districts.

Many councilors seemed to be affected by the outage. When a reporter called into the Zoom meeting by phone, only Councilor Tae Chong was back on to inform anyone listening the meeting had been postponed.

The city sent out an email around 6 p.m. about the postponement, saying the decision was made to ensure everyone who wants to participate will be able to.

Heidi Vandenbrouck, a senior communications manager for Spectrum, said the outage was caused by two breaks in the company’s fiber network.

“These separate breaks impacted our redundant path, which normally serve as backup when a break or damage is incurred in a part of the network,” Vandenbrouck said.

Spectrum began to restore service to customers around 8 p.m.

Councilors voted to reject the district by a 5-4 vote earlier this year, but Councilor Andrew Zarro moved to reconsider on Feb. 22, hoping to get more information. His motion also passed by a 5-4 vote, and debate was subsequently tabled until April 5.

The proposal for a historic district dates back to 2017 when city staff first began discussing applying the designation to the rapidly gentrifying Portland neighborhood. The Planning Board narrowly approved creation of the district last August, after it received unanimous support from the Historic Preservation Board.

City staff has often referred to the working-class history of the neighborhood as a reason to apply the designation, along with the fact many of the roughly 430 homes that would be included in the district were built within a 75-year window.

Proponents and opponents have debated what a historic district would actually accomplish for Munjoy Hill, and what it would mean for future development.

Proponents have said the district would protect existing buildings, while opponents have said it will make life more difficult for property owners. The historic district would not prevent demolitions or future development, but it would make those actions more difficult.

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