Sunday, March 9, 2014
In response to Patrick Venne’s Dec. 18 letter (“Critics of ‘midtown’ project need lesson in government”) and the Press Herald’s slanted coverage of the proposed “midtown” Bayside development:
Why has the Press Herald been so reluctant to provide ground-view elevations of this gargantuan project? This letter wouldn’t even be necessary if citizens could see how this Size 22 development tries to squeeze into our Size 6 city.
Regarding Mr. Venne’s letter: He exhorts the Planning Board to ignore public sentiment and approve the midtown development because “the Planning Board does not take legislative action; it administers previously established local laws in a quasi-judicial manner.”
That is exactly why the Planning Board should not approve the project. The Planning Board can only review an application to see if it conforms to existing ordinances. The midtown development does not conform; therefore, it should not be approved.
The law is clear: To approve the conditional uses required by midtown, the Planning Board must find that the project conforms to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the specific 2000-ratified Bayside plan and the B-7 Design Principles – all local laws, democratically created, that will be disregarded if the Planning Board approves midtown.
Midtown does not conform to existing ordinances in many significant respects, including failure to provide pedestrian-friendly midblock pass-throughs, embed the (suburban mall-sized) garages within multi-use buildings or offer housing for diverse income levels. The “permissive” environment imagined by Venne would not require variance after variance.
The city’s plans and ordinances were carefully crafted with purpose and vision via democratic process. The Planning Board’s duty to Portland is to only approve development solutions that fit the city’s democratically established plan.