The city of Portland pushed back Friday against a lawsuit filed earlier this week challenging the approval of a massive development in the Bayside neighborhood, saying it keeps all legally required meeting records and followed all necessary development laws.

In a written statement, the city rebutted accusations made in the lawsuit filed Wednesday by Keep Portland Livable, a group of residents and business owners opposed to the four residential high-rises.

The group contends the city couldn’t produce public records of meetings that led up to the Jan. 14 approval by the Portland Planning Board of the 10-year development plan, and that the project did not conform to the city’s comprehensive plan and land use code, among other criticisms.

The recordings of the meetings were inadvertently erased because of a technical problem with recording equipment, the city said previously.

On Friday, it denied the assertion in the lawsuit that the city “keeps no written records of its meetings, nor does the Planning Board televise or video record its meetings.”

“Staff keeps a written record of each Planning Board meeting, and on the next meeting’s agenda, lists all actions taken, which the Planning Board then announces publicly,” the city said in the statement. “(Keep Portland Livable’s) attorney has been provided all notes and the minutes from each of the meetings in question.”

Portland’s meeting minutes, published with the agenda of each upcoming meeting, appear to comply with the minimum standards required by law – that government bodies record the time, place, members of the body, and who is present at a meeting, as well as who makes and seconds a motion, and the final vote outcomes.

The city generally posts all materials for a project on its website, although the law does not require it do so.

In the case of the “midtown” development, the city created a special page as a one-stop shop for the records information, the city’s statement said.

The deleted recordings came to light in a Feb. 6 email from Portland Senior Planner Rick Knowland, provided by Keep Portland Livable, which indicates that audio recordings for five meetings dating from early 2013 were accidentally erased when the digital recording system’s memory filled up, leading the software to record over previously taped meetings.

“Without boring you with all the technical details, the recorded sessions of (meetings held Jan. 29, Feb. 12 and 26, and March 12 and 21) were inadvertently erased by the recording equipment,” Knowland wrote in the February email. “We had no idea the recording equipment was doing that.”

The city said it has requested money in next year’s budget to replace the defective equipment.

Knowland went on to offer the group access to staff memos, reports, agendas and staff notes from the meetings.

Municipalities are required to keep basic minutes, noting the time, location, members of the governing body present and actions of meetings, said Judy Meyer, a vice president of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition. Municipalities are not required to keep detailed minutes or verbatim transcripts of a meeting, but they must record which members put forward a motion, second it and record the actual vote, she said.

Boards and committees are not required to make audio or video recordings of their meetings, Meyer said, but when they do, those records must be retained in accordance with the state’s records retention law.

Asked if the inadvertent destruction of the videos constituted a violation of the law’s requirement of record maintenance, city spokeswoman Sheila Hill-Christian declined to comment.

“I think in terms of a debate about the law, we need to leave that to the court proceedings,” Hill-Christian said.

The project developer, Federated Cos. of Florida, plans to buy about 3.25 acres of city-owned land near Back Cove for the development.

In all, the project calls for 650 to 850 market-rate apartments in four towers of about 15 stories each, 1,100 parking spaces in two garages and 100,000 square feet of retail space on Somerset Street.

Residents and groups such as Keep Portland Livable objected during the approval process and have criticized the project’s scope and design, saying it does not fit with the scale of most residences in Portland, will block views of Back Cove, and become an impediment to pedestrians.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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