SOUTH PORTLAND — Over the summer of 2019, the South Portland City Council created and tasked the Open Space Implementation Committee to create an improved plan for municipal property and future land use. On March 5, the City Council discussed a plan to protect city-owned spaces, based on three different tiers that the Open Space Implementation Committee proposed.

Sharon Newman, the chair of the committee, brought forward four suggestions for discussion during the meeting.

The first suggestion involved dividing the roughly 200 city-owned properties into three tiers: The first tier, she said, would be city parks, which would have highest level of protection. An example she gave was Bug Light Park. Newman also recommended conservation easements for the Tier 1 properties.

Tier 2 would be open space potential parcels that would prompt citizen interest, and Tier 3 would be properties not suitable for development, with the spaces too tiny or in an undesirable location, and sales would be based on planning department recommendations, said Newman.

With the creation of the tiers, she said, there would be three amendments to the city ordinance related to the sale of city property, as well as the creation of an Open Space District, and the creation of a Parks District.

The Open Space Implementation Committee, created in the summer of 2019 to improve South Portland’s open space plan, brought forward its recommendations to the City Council on March 5. One of the committee’s four proposed ideas would be to re-zone public parks and city-owned properties. Courtesy South Portland Open Space Implementation Committee

The Tier 1 properties would be zoned accordingly, said Newman.

While each City Council member expressed support at one or more of the proposed ideas, there was some disagreement as to what should be included as a Tier 1 property.

Mayor Katherine Lewis said that she was in favor of a land easement with the city’s parks. She said that those properties should be protected for future public use.

Councilor April Caricchio said that she would like to see some fluidity with the properties and would also like to hold a public meeting of some sort for residents to weigh in, but she thinks that there should be some properties in the conservation easement.

Councilor Claude Morgan said that he was hesitant about easement conservation, as that would be permanent, and he wouldn’t want the council to “jump through hoops” to reclaim city property.

Councilor Sue Henderson said she was in favor of the Tier 1 easement.

“There’s not much land, and when it’s gone, it’s gone,” she said. “I think we really have to go for it and take this land we have and save it and salvage as much as Tier 2 as we can, and maybe with Tier 3 we can plant little trees and have green spaces.”

“I think what we have before us is a check-in on an extraordinary work that’s been done, and while we’re thinking about this, what I’m hearing is a lot of support for some level of protection from these properties,” said Lewis. “We do need to do the due diligence, put it out to the public.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: