SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Citing density issues and concerns about current operations at a Main Street motel, City Councilors on Monday recommended three Noyes Street property owners be allowed to buy city-owned land behind their homes as a buffer.
Before moving the workshop to council chambers, councilors took a site walk at the former Roosevelt School on Pine Street to determine if it should be offered for sale. Discussions will continue at a May 13 workshop, City Manager Jim Gailey said.
Noyes Street residents Margaret Michaud, Leigh Silver, and Elliott and Sarah Randall want to buy part or all of the property behind their homes to prevent the motel at 738 Main St. from expanding. East Coast Hospitality, owner of the motel, also offered to buy the property for 18 additional residential units, a move Gailey and his staff have opposed.
Gailey said the price of the property, a total of 1,100 square feet, would be determined by the city assessor’s office, and could range from 50 cents to $2 per square foot.
Silver, Michaud and the Randalls opposed any expansion of the motel because of safety and population-density concerns. In his council memo, Gailey included police logs showing 37 calls to the motel since January, after 68 calls in 2012.
“There have been times I have been uncomfortable being in my own backyard,” Michaud said.
Sarah Randall asked what kind of conditions would exist for families in the neighborhood after the proposed expansion, given previous problems with motel guests.
“What are we giving them, in a place that can’t maintain what they have?” she asked.
Tim Ly, president of Mainely Property Management, said his company now manages Motel 8 for East Coast Hospitality, and has moved its offices there while trying to remedy the motel’s problems.
“As a management company, we have made the situation a lot better,” he said, with evictions, a change in motel staff and cleaning up the outside of the motel.
While Councilor Jerry Jalbert and Mayor Tom Blake said added density from motel expansion would have a high impact on the neighborhood, Councilor Al Livingston said the motel improvements may be coming too late, after years of neglect.
“I know you are very sincere in the last four months of trying to do what you have stated,” Livingston told Ly. “Unfortunately, you are coming in on the heels of situations that were never taken care of over many, many years.”
Councilors also recommended a parcel of tax-acquired property on Noyes Street be offered for sale to American Steel & Aluminum. Sale of any city-owned property requires a public hearing and council vote at a future meeting.
As a former student at Roosevelt School, Gailey recalled it closed in 1983 when he was in fourth grade.
As city manager, he said he hopes to get the 18,000-square-foot, three-story building on to the market before the city has to pay to heating it next winter.
Since 1985, the school at 317 Pine St. has been leased to Richmond Corp., which operated the Spurwink School there until the spring of 2012. The company continued to pay for heat this winter, but the escape clause in the lease is effective July 1.
Gailey said the building has drawn interest for residential and educational uses from at least five parties, but no offers have been received.
Councilors also deferred a possible ordinance change that would allow the sale of alcohol on city-owned properties.
As part of its Aug. 17 festival at Bug Light Park, Buy Local South Portland would like to have Sea Dog Brewing set up a beer garden in the park. Alcohol sales and consumption are banned on city-owned properties, and Gailey said the last time the city considered amending the ordinance was in 2003.
The effort was abandoned after officials received a petition opposing the change, Gailey said.
“I feel we shouldn’t have alcohol at an event to have a good time,” Councilor Linda Cohen said, although she noted that festivals in Portland that have allowed alcohol sales have been well-managed and she would trust Sea Dog staff at the festival.
Buy Local President April Cohen-Tracy said the festival would occur whether beer is sold or not, but Sea Dog Brewing is a valued member.
“The beer is important to us because Sea Dog is important to us. We would like them to showcase their product,” she said.