Work on a massive waterfront development on Portland’s East End can continue despite several violations of the project’s master plan.
In a pair of 4-1 decisions last week the Planning Board amended the plan for Portland Foreside. The board OK’d interim conditions to allow the continued buildout and changed the underlying zone with a text amendment that allows marinas with restaurants.
Board Member David Silk cast both opposition votes. Silk said the actions weren’t proactive or reflective of the city’s Eastern Waterfront Master Plan.
“My big problem is this is reactive planning,” Silk said. “It’s not inclusive. We’re doing this at the behest of a developer that just blew through stop signs.”
The 58 Fore St. mixed-use development, considered the largest private development in state history, is estimated to be worth nearly $1 billion along the city’s waterfront. It will eventually include restaurants, bars, public market space, retail space, event space, housing, hotels, and the headquarters of Sun Life.
Several nearby property owners have claimed Portland Foreside made changes to its plan without city approval, and that the city has ignored the violations.
Planning Board Vice Chair Maggie Stanley initially seemed to want to vote against the developers’ proposals, which would have defeated the requests because four affirmative votes were needed. But Stanley’s vote was gained when she was able to add a deadline for opening access to the public as a condition of approval.
Board member Sean Dundon agreed with Silk that the project hadn’t been handled as it should have, but said he supported the interim conditions that essentially give Portland Foreside an additional three years to complete the marina development. Dundon said the developers’ willingness to open that area to the public was significant.
“You don’t like to reward bad behavior … but this is a concession that can be made and needs to be rectified,” Dundon said. “We need to go in that direction for the benefit of the public good.”
Board member Marpheen Chann was absent because there was a Charter Commission committee meeting the same night, and board member Austin Smith was recused.
A few members of the public spoke against both measures approved by the board.
Mike Hoover said the developers’ activities, including erecting several temporary shed structures, were “unpermitted and illegal activities,” and they showed “woeful disregard” for the master development plan.
“The (master development plan) was granted for a marina facility, for a single facility and public waterfront walkway,” Hoover said. “The current development exhibits no resemblance to that.”