Portland City Council faces big decisions, state lawmakers get back to work

By Chris Hall, CEO, Portland Regional Chamber
Posted April 22, 2013, at 12:21 p.m.

This week the City of Portland has two important choices to make about pending development proposals – we’re urging City Councilors to support growth opportunities in both cases.

Tonight the Portland City Council will vote on a Planning Board recommendation to amend the zoning height limit in Bayside to allow taller buildings as a part of the Federated ‘Midtown’ project. We urge them to support the zoning changes, and the project.

‘Midtown’ offers a unique opportunity to add almost 700 residential apartments, two garages and dozens of street level retail shops to the Bayside neighborhood. It’s a transformational project that needs to go forward.

Plans to develop Bayside have been on the books and in the works for over 10 years, but the chance to attract the necessary $38 million dollar investment to actually build phase one of something like ‘Midtown’. With the Planning Board’s expert approval of new zoning in hand, we’re hopeful that councilors will look beyond objections and vote for the zoning amendment and best interests of the City.

On Wednesday, we expect that Rockbridge Capital will appear before the City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee to present a new proposal to incorporate a portion of Congress Square Park into the renovation of the Eastland Hotel.

Doing so allows the new Westin Hotel to include a ballroom facility that will support events and functions for the entire community, and will boost the project’s financial viability. It also upgrades land use in a spot that needs it, and creates the opportunity to make new investments in better public spaces in the area.

No vote (or public testimony) will be taken on Wednesday, but in the coming weeks the committee’s decision is important, just as the council’s choice on Bayside zoning is important. Both decisions will help define the city’s development future, and both will send a message to other potential investors in Portland.

We’ll be working to win votes in favour of these exciting new growth opportunities. If you’d like to contact Portland City Councillors and share your views, use this link and send them an email, or give them a call – right now.

Notable Read: Some days there’s just too much to read. If you only have time for one thing:

At the heart of the current state budget debate is the question: ‘Who pays for local services and local education?’ The Governor has proposed elimination of municipal revenue sharing, along with several other cuts that reduce state funding to local government. Conversation about the price of ‘local control’ and the potential for regional consolidation has grown, as have calls for higher taxes to offset these and other cuts.

Matt Stone and the staff of the BDN put together an analysis of state and local government spending, and the policy options facing state lawmakers and the Governor. Not surprisingly the debate is coming down to this – ‘who pays for K-12 education, and how much do we pay?’

As the legislative session grows shorter and the budget debate gets hotter this article is worth reading.

Spotlight Legislation: Coming back from a week off, the legislature will be pushing to complete public hearings and work sessions on hundreds of bills. Click here for the full list of committee work this week. Highlights include:

Remember, you can send an email to the appropriate committee or to your local lawmakers on any of these or other issues by using the links above and below in our Digging Deeper section.

In the State House: Not much news last week given the vacation, but laws were still being made ( BDN), and the Governor’s talk to the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce inspired Mike Tipping to write a series of blog entries ( part 1, part 2, part 3). Glenn Adams looked at upcoming legislative issues in the PPH.

State Policy round-up:

Upcoming Event: If you’ve been thinking about export opportunities here’s a meeting you might be interested in attending:

On Thursday April 25th St. Joseph’s College’s Cross Cultural Management class will present their semester-long findings on business opportunities for local Maine companies in the developing markets of Brazil, Russia, South Africa, China, Turkey and India. Kevin Hancock, president of Hancock Lumber, will give opening remarks.

The presentation is free and open to the public. It takes place at 7 p.m. in the Viola George Auditorium, Harold Alfond Hall, at Saint Joseph’s Standish campus. For more information click here.

Around the Region: The Portland Pirates and the Cumberland County Civic Center Trustees reached agreement on a long-term lease that will serve as a keystone for the Civic Center and the surrounding community ( PPH, BDN, PDS). Southwest Airlines began service from the Portland JetPort ( Forecaster). I had the chance to discuss the future of the Chamber and the region in Mainebiz and on WGAN.

Contact your local officials: Visit our website to find links to all your municipal and state house officials. Remember – if you don’t speak out, the people who represent you have no way to know what you think. So keep those email, calls and visits coming.

Digging Deeper at the State House: Most of you probably don’t want to find daily schedules at the state house, research copies of every piece of testimony submitted at every public hearing, track the status of a particular bill, find contact info for Committees, or House members, or Senators, or listen to public hearings on the computer, or watch selected state house proceedings on MPBN’s Capitol Connection. But if you do, just follow the links. The state house is increasingly accessible to the public, at least to those who put in a little work.

Back issues: Miss a Policy Update? Want to find that story or link that you lost track of? Just click here for recent back issues of Policy Update.

Feedback: What do you think? We’d love to have your thoughts on anything you’ve read here, or other topics that are important to you. The more you talk to us, the better we’ll represent your views. Send an email to share your feedback with me – and thank you!

Partners for Progress Policy Updates from the Portland Regional Chamber are supported by generous contributions from our Partners for Progress. For more information about joining the Portland Regional Chamber just click here.

 

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/04/22/business/portland-city-council-faces-big-decisions-state-lawmakers-get-back-to-work/ printed on July 30, 2014