September 23, 2013

Letters to the Editor: Congress Square deal favors developer

The sale of part of Congress Square Park to the new owners of the Eastland Hotel may go down in Portland's history as one of the great mistakes, along with: 1) the demolition of Union Station; 2) the abandonment of Portland Public Market by the Libra Foundation, and 3) the failure to develop the State Pier as part of the Ocean Gateway project.

The clock tower at Union Station is razed in 1961. Along with the destruction of the former railroad terminal, the sale of part of Congress Square Plaza may go down in history as one of the city’s “great mistakes,” a reader says.

1961 Gannett Publishing File Photo/Donald Johnson

In council, Cheryl Leeman's amendments did little to improve the articles of the original sale agreement or to address concerns with it on the part of Greater Portland Landmarks and members of the public, including a lawsuit that may give Rockbridge Capital reason to renege on the deal, let alone the complication of delaying sale until after all city approvals.

The sale agreement is certainly in the hotel's favor, since they only had to purchase two-thirds of the undervalued property, knowing full well that the other third will serve as their plaza, where conference guests may gather during intermissions of events indoors and outnumber all else, making city officials regret not selling them the whole parcel. 

In retrospect, since the City Council has approved the sale, the hotel's plans seem meager and uninspired. 

They could have, for instance, designed a new hotel entrance that faced Congress Square, created more room for embarking and disembarking hotel guests in comfort without disturbing traffic on High Street, and included a ground-level outdoor cafe. 

But this was not the first incarnation of the Eastland Hotel and may not be the last, as its ownership invariably changes hands in the years to come.

Meanwhile, a parcel of public property in the midst of Congress Square is lost forever, having been transformed into the Malaga Island of Back Street, as Congress Street was once known, by the scurrilous remarks of the public in 2013.

Stephen Small

Portland 

Poland Spring truck drivers respect town's pedestrians 

I live on Main Street in Steep Falls, a small town that has a lot of children playing near the streets. The speed limit for Route 11 is 25 mph. Most people exceed 35 to 40 mph, making it very dangerous for children and the many, many in my community who walk to exercise.

The Poland Spring truck drivers who go by my house on a daily basis are very safety-minded and respectful. They travel at the speed limit or below and always will have a friendly wave to me and my neighbors whenever we are out.

I have also followed them up Route 117. Whenever they encounter a big hill, they will put their flashers on to warn traffic behind them that they are about to slow down. Each of them should be commended for the way they drive and the managers who require that they do so.

I want to say "thank you" for the safety of our neighborhood. And I wish for them to know that our little town appreciates the respect they have for us!

Francis "J.R." Abbott

Steep Falls 

Farmers versus Monsanto is David-and-Goliath case 

I have been following the case pitting the farmers versus Monsanto ("Maine farmers appeal Monsanto case to Supreme Court," Sept. 6). I firmly believe that Monsanto is wrong. I, for one, would like Monsanto to lose.

You can ask any Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, and they will tell you that Monsanto is wrong. Monsanto is one of the chemical companies that made this product.

I also believe the only reason Monsanto won the case is because they have the money to beat the small organic farmers. Also, President Obama has one of Monsanto's bigwigs working for him.

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