Fort Sumner Park offers a sweeping view of Portland, overlooking the downtown, Bayside and Back Cove areas from Munjoy Hill.

The long view westward makes it an ideal spot to take in spectacular sunsets and, on clear days, even glimpse Mount Washington.

But that wide view soon may become narrower.

A Saco-based developer is looking to build a six-story condominium complex at 155 Sheridan St. The top floor would rise above the small park, obscuring the view of Back Cove, according to people who have seen the preliminary plans.

The potential of losing views like those at Fort Sumner Park and a proposal for the former Portland Co. at 58 Fore St. inspired Munjoy Hill residents to pursue a scenic protection ordinance, but it was roundly rejected last year by voters. One of the organizers of the failed 2015 referendum effort was crestfallen when told of the proposed development.

“It’s very upsetting news,” said Anne Rand, who lives nearby on Melbourne Street. “That was my next big fear, there is no doubt about that. I’d be heartbroken if this thing goes through.”

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Tomisa Sangregorio was admiring the view on a balmy Thursday afternoon with her rescue dog, Colt, whom she walks to the park three times a day. She stood only a few yards from a handmade sign warning people about the condo project and encouraging people to contact the city to voice opposition.

“This is our favorite spot to come,” Sangregorio said. “The sunsets here are unbelievable. Right over the water there,” she said, gesturing to Back Cove, “is the best view of it.”

The project comes during a development boom in Portland. While some people hope new developments will help solve the city’s housing crisis, with a shortage of units and high demand driving up rents, other longtime residents are worried that new luxury apartment buildings and condos, especially on the East End, will ruin Portland’s charm and eventually force them out of the city.

Development plans have yet to be filed with the city, but members of the development team presented preliminary designs Monday to the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization.

“There are no doubt high tensions over this sort of plan and in this case, I completely understand it,” Jay Norris, the organization’s president, said in an email Thursday. “The plan in current state would be a drastic change and one that would not be entirely in the best interest of Portland.”

Nicole Cardelfe of Burlington, Vt., takes photos of the sunset Thursday from Fort Sumner Park in Portland. The Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization plans to work with the developer in hopes of avoiding a bitter public battle over a proposed condo complex that would obscure the view.

Nicole Cardelfe of Burlington, Vt., takes photos of the sunset Thursday from Fort Sumner Park in Portland. The Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization plans to work with the developer in hopes of avoiding a bitter public battle over a proposed condo complex that would obscure the view. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

RESIDENTS MOBILIZING

City Councilor Belinda Ray, who represents the East End, said the proposal is prompting residents to organize.

“It is the best view in Portland. It really is,” Ray said of the 1.25-acre city park on North Street, between Quebec and Melbourne streets.

“Clearly people are upset and they’re mobilizing. I do think the developer wants to work with the community so I’m hopeful we will find a good resolution.”

The developer is Bernie Saulnier of Saulnier Development, which has offices in Maine and Massachusetts. In an interview, Saulnier said it was too soon to discuss details, since the plans were being drafted. But he did confirm that he is considering a six-story building that would have 34 condominiums. The building would sit on two adjacent parcels of land – 155 and 165 Sheridan St. – that he is under contract to buy. One lot is vacant, while the other has a single-family home.

Saulnier said he is interested in working with the city and residents to help preserve the views, possibly by building a viewing deck and rebuilding a stone staircase that connects Sheridan Street to the park.

“It should be a big improvement up there,” Saulnier said. “There are some homeless people living up there in the brush and vegetation. So we will clean that up.”

SEEKING COMPROMISE

Planning Director Stuart O’Brien said the property at 155 Sheridan St. is in a zone that limits building heights to 45 feet – a height that’s measured from the average grade. Because of the slope of the lot, however, the developer may be able to build a five- to six-story building without a zoning change, he said. “I say ‘could’ because no application has been submitted and no analysis has been completed by the city,” he said.

Norris, of the neighborhood group, is assembling an ad hoc committee of area residents to work with the developer in hopes of finding a compromise and avoiding a bitter public battle.

Karen Snyder, who lives two blocks from the park, is hoping something can be done to preserve the view. She is disappointed that the 2015 referendum to protect scenic vistas like Fort Sumner Park failed and that the city’s Land Bank Commission did not take any steps to purchase the property.

“I guess I was shocked that this was open for development,” Snyder said.