Portland residents and at least one elected official say the proposed private development projects for a 4-acre parcel of city-owned land in Bayside fall short of the need for more affordable housing.

Roughly 50 people turned out for a two-hour public hearing Wednesday night and nearly everyone who spoke criticized the city staff for presenting projects to members of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee that could result in retail and office space, light industrial use, commercial buildings, some low income housing, and one-bedroom condominiums priced at $200,000 or less.

“I have just heard so much about wanting more affordable housing and I’m frustrated that we don’t have more opportunities for housing here,” Mayor Ethan Strimling said after the hearing. “I think we all have felt the effects of the housing crisis in the city. It seems to me we’re putting a lot more of this land into commercial use than for housing.”

City staff led by Gregory A. Mitchell, director of economic development, came up with a list of six development options for the public works properties in Bayside, a 4-acre parcel bordered by Portland, Hanover, Parris, and Kennebec streets. The staff recommendations were presented to three members of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee Wednesday night.

Once sales prices have been negotiated, the winning development options would be made public – along with individual lot sale prices – and the Committee would hold another hearing, David Brenerman, the committee’s chairman explained.

After that process has been completed, the committee’s recommendations will be presented to the nine-member City Council for final approval.

Among the recommended development options was a proposal from Jack Soley. Periscope Lofts would be a four-story building with 20, one-bedroom condos priced at $200,000 or less, making them affordable as workforce housing.

“That’s a joke,” said Don Marietta, a Bayside resident. “Anyone who tells you that is affordable housing should be metaphorically slapped upside the head.”

A second housing proposal endorsed by the staff calls for 50 residential units with 65 percent of the units being affordable to people earning 65 percent of the local median income. A third proposal would allow Port Property Management to renovate the former General Store at 82 Hanover Street into office space for the company. If that were to happen, Tom Watson, co-founder ofPort Property Management would develop 23 apartments on Grant Street on the site now occupied by the property management firm.

Cheryl Harkins said the Bayside land represents an opportunity for the city to develop housing that could serve low-income or homeless families. Harkins, who is a member of Homeless Voices for Justice, urged the council to reconsider their options.

“If you guys can come to your senses and try to help people this could be a golden opportunity to get people off the streets,” Harkins said. “Just for a minute think about all the people who are sleeping on sidewalks.”

Mitchell said proceeds from the sale of the Bayside land would cover the costs of relocating the Portland Public Services department to a new site on Canco Road. Mitchell urged the council to not hesitate, with the goal of closing on the real estate transactions by the end the year.

“We want to move while the market is still strong,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the sites would be sold “as is” meaning that each developer would become responsible for any environmental remediation cleanup that might be needed. The city said at least two of the lots that are for sale may not be suitable for housing due to the presence of underground fuel storage tanks.

Correction: This story was updated at 12:49 p.m. on July 20, 2017 to correct the name of Port Property Management and to correct a quote from Don Marietta.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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