For hundreds of years, those fortunate enough to enter our beautiful city “seated by the sea,” as described by our native poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from the ocean would have witnessed a magnificent hill sloping majestically down to the edge of the Atlantic.

Nature gave Portland one of the most beautiful natural harbors along the entire Eastern Seaboard. For most of its history, such an entry from the sea would have been the safest and most dependable mode of transportation, before the era of the automobile, rail and airline. The glorious panorama appreciated both from the land and the sea welcomes those, in the words of Schooner Fare, “coming home to Portland Town.”

Today, however, the Portland Planning Board is actively considering a plan by “local” entrepreneurs operating under the name CPB2 to alter this natural vista permanently. They wish to pave paradise and put up a parking garage, retail stores, a waterfront hotel and over 600 high-end condominiums. Obviously, they have “discovered” the beauty of Munjoy Hill and now propose to capitalize on this beauty.

It is, of course, their right to propose doing this, but is their enormous and ambitious plan the right one for this neighborhood and this city? Few people are against any change in this city, but an increasing number are concerned about how these proposals would change the very nature of the city – bringing the Old Port to the edge of what has always been one of Portland’s most vibrant residential neighborhoods.

Change is inevitable and sometimes highly desired, but what type of change and for the benefit of whom? The main spokesman for CPB2, Jim Brady, has articulated his vision over the past two years. Greater Portland Landmarks fought gallantly to preserve major parts of the former industrial site at 58 Fore St. with mixed success.

So what is left of this 10-acre site on the eastern edge of our city? CPB2 has apparently used every trick in the book and legal measures, with the assistance of local and Boston-based architects and planners (one of whom was touted as having done a great job in Dubai) to maximize the massing of buildings with which they propose to cover this lot.

Brady talks glowingly of the “market forces” compelling them to wring every dollar of profit they can out of their investments and most likely those of other risk-takers outside Maine. But what he calls “market forces” is a euphemism for what everyone knows to be maximizing profit.

If allowed to proceed with their plans by the Planning Board, CPB2 will saturate this site with buildings rising as high as nine or more stories and extending 35 or more feet above Fore Street, leaving only “view corridors” to replace historic maritime panoramas.

Equally troubling is the scale of the steel and glass facades proposed near the water’s edge. These structures would be taller than most of the downtown buildings, and taller, by far, than any other buildings on the central waterfront, forever altering the experience of coming into the harbor of Portland Town.

The question, as always, comes back to this – who will benefit, and at what cost? I ask that the Planning Board carefully consult and consider the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan to see if and how such massing of buildings is compatible with the spirit and the legal intent of that defining document. It was and is meant to be the guide by which future development will be measured and weighed.

I would suggest that CPB2’s plan for 58 Fore St. does not in any way address the issue of compatibility with the adjoining Munjoy Hill neighborhood, as it is required to do, nor does it follow the master plan’s guidelines for the scale of future development.

It might meet a tortured interpretation of the zoning ordinance if the board accepts the deceptive argument that these buildings, probably to be constructed at different times, are but one building, because they would all share a common parking structure buried within. Trickery and cleverness in manipulating zoning, however, do not substitute for common sense or the stated and clear guidelines of the overarching comprehensive plan.

I only ask that the Portland Planning Board finally stand up to CPB2 and its powerful local advocates and demand that they scale back their plans to fit in with the neighborhood, the rest of the waterfront and the comprehensive planning that was meant to protect us all. It is not appropriate to simply defer to the “market forces” directing them and their investors.

Portland is not Boston and certainly not Dubai. It was and always will be the city “seated by the sea,” assuming we can still see it.