This home at 28 Waterville St. on Munjoy Hill is one of a handful up for individual landmark designations. With constant redevelopment pressure and after years of debate, the Portland City Council is considering creation of a Munjoy Hill Historic District. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe Buy this Photo

The Portland City Council on Monday will begin deliberations on whether to create a historic district in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods – Munjoy Hill.

Councilors are scheduled to discuss the historic district designation – which would affect only a portion of the neighborhood overlooking Casco Bay – during a virtual workshop that starts at 4:30 p.m. before holding a public hearing on the proposal Nov. 16. No votes will be taken during the workshop.

The issue has proved to be divisive, with preservation advocates arguing that Munjoy Hill has been overlooked in the past because many of its modestly designed homes, which were built primarily between 1850 and 1925, weren’t considered worthy of the protections afforded by a historic district.

But some residents say the changes brought on by a historic district are an unnecessary infringement upon property owners’ rights. The Planning Board voted 4-3 to recommend the establishment of a historic district following a unanimous recommendation from Portland’s Historic Preservation Board.

Portland currently has 11 historic districts. Designated historic properties are protected from demolition, and proposed alterations or additions are reviewed by the city to ensure compatibility with a property’s original design. The city also reviews any new construction within a historic district to ensure that it blends in with older structures.

12 Montreal Street, near left, is one of a handful of properties that will receive individual landmark designation. With constant redevelopment pressure and after years of debate, Portland is finally poised to create a Munjoy Hill Historic District. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

In addition to designating a portion of Munjoy Hill as a historic district, the measure would name six individual properties as historic landmarks: 101-107 Congress St., 7 Lafayette St., 8-12 Montreal St., 51 Monument St., 21 Sheridan St., and 28 Waterville St.

Councilors will eventually have to decide whether the proposed designations meet the criteria set forth in the city’s historic preservation ordinance and try to ensure that the changes align with goals set out in the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Karen Snyder is a Munjoy Hill homeowner and landlord. She supports the historic district.

“Historic districts have been proven to stabilize neighborhoods and retain the socioeconomic diversity of the neighborhood,” Snyder said Sunday.

21 Sheridan Street on Munjoy Hill on Sunday is one of a handful that will receive individual landmark designation. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

She said there is a higher probability of affordable housing being built in a historic district due to the tax credits that become available.

“The naysayers may say, ‘Well, it’s about elitism.’ Well, if you’ve ever been up on Munjoy Hill, it’s not about elitism. It’s about the streetscape, the architecture – which is not elitist at all – but it’s also about affordability,” Snyder said.

Snyder’s home on Munjoy Hill was built in 1860. It was owned by a ship captain who eventually split the building into three units. She has lived there for 12 years. A student and a teacher from the Maine College of Art live in her building. She has tried to keep rents low.

“It’s not about elitism. It’s about preserving our community, keeping houses affordable for long-term residents,” Snyder said.

101-108 Congress, a large multi-unit building, on Munjoy Hill on Sunda. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe Buy this Photo

Carle Henry, also a homeowner on Munjoy Hill, doesn’t support making the neighborhood a historic district. Henry claims his neighbors have been misled into believing that a historic district will benefit the area.

“The population is being led to believe that we have this issue of buildings of high character … disappearing. We have never had this issue,” Henry said. He said the buildings that have been demolished “were falling down on their own.”

He also contends that historic districts “become exclusionary. They are not focused on people or culture. They are focused on facades of buildings.”

Henry, who owns an 1849 home, said he has spent a significant amount of money and time on maintenance. He predicts that a historic district will drive house values up, negatively affecting lower-income and middle-income residents.

A pedestrian walks past 51 Monument Street on Munjoy Hill on Sunday. The property is one of a handful that will receive individual landmark designation. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe Buy this Photo

“Historic preservation is a ploy to add values, pad some pockets and make this a gated community for people who are mostly older and white. End of story,” Henry said.”

In 1990, the city of Portland adopted a historic preservation ordinance that currently protects almost 2,000 properties, including the Old Port, Stroudwater, Congress Street, the West End and Fort McKinley on Great Diamond Island. According to a city website that explains Portland’s historic preservation initiative, the intent of the ordinance is not to prevent change, but to thoughtfully manage it to ensure that the unique character of the historic areas are retained.

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