PORTLAND, Maine — An abutter of the Cumberland County Civic Center on Tuesday urged the Portland Planning Board to rescind its approval of the venue’s high-profile renovation project, telling city planners the plan’s proposed loading docks don’t leave enough room for large tractor-trailers to turn out onto the nearby streets.
David Ray, legal counsel for the civic center project, told the board that additional delays would jeopardize the completion date and potentially drive up the cost.
The $33 million civic center rehabilitation was approved by voters at the polls last November. The Planning Board on Tuesday reopened the application, which it approved with a 6-0 vote last month, but ultimately re-approved it with a 4-0 tally before the night was over.
The board heard arguments Tuesday by T.R. Quesada, representing a group of area property owners including New GMN Inc., a company located at 48 Free St. — across Center Street from the civic center’s truck entrance. Quesada told the board the proposed new loading docks at the 6,700-seat arena don’t provide adequate turning radius for the largest tractor-trailer trucks currently on the road.
Quesada argued that trucks carrying 53-foot trailers to and from the site would endanger pedestrians and other vehicles while navigating the tight turns not only leaving the loading docks, but also turning down nearby Free Street and onto Temple Street.
A major aspect of the civic center renovation, including a redesign of the concession areas, included expansion of the loading dock area to accommodate the larger trucks used by national acts.
Representatives of the county, including Ray, responded to Quesada’s concerns Tuesday by showing an overhead video of a truck carrying a 53-foot trailer successfully turning out of the civic center’s loading docks as they’re currently situated and negotiating the turn onto Free Street.
City traffic consultant Tom Errico admitted to the board that the turn was “very tight.”
“The video tape shows sort of a worst-case scenario,” Errico said. “It’s a full 53-foot box and a full sleeper cab attached to it. It shows that it can make the turn with some maneuvering, with no parking [allowed in the area] and with the help of flaggers.”
Quesada was not convinced by the video, displayed to the board by a projector onto a white background.
“We believe there are real problems with the proposed plan that are not showing in the video of the current [loading dock], because the [proposed] bigger dock extends farther uphill,” he told the board.
But planning board members were persuaded by civic center representatives that with parking blocked along Center Street during events and flaggers on hand to guide the big trucks, the loading dock design will work. The civic center is home of the Portland Pirates professional hockey team, as well as the site of a number of music concerts and other events.
Ray also told the board a lengthy reconsideration of the project application could be costly and put the rehabilitation behind schedule.
“Timing is really of the essence,” Ray said. “If we’re further delayed by a reconsideration of this project, it would create a significant financial [impact] and significant completion date delay for us.”
The board approved the project again 4-0 — with Patrick Venne, Stuart O’Brien and Joe Lewis absent — with the additional condition requiring that flaggers be used when trucks are turning in and out of the loading docks.