The historic district on Munjoy Hill would include this section of Vesper Street and would mean property owners would have to go before the Historic Preservation Board or historic preservation staff to make exterior alterations. File photo

PORTLAND — The City Council needs more time to decide if a section of Munjoy Hill should become the city’s 12th historic district.

The council had been ready to decide on the designation Monday, but after push from City Councilor Nick Mavodones, the vote was put off until Feb. 1 in order to give the council more time to hear from the public, work through the issue and get the new councilors being inaugurated Dec. 7 – Mark Dion, April Fournier and Andrew Zarro – up to speed on the topic.

The council had a half-hour public workshop on the designation Nov. 9, but Mavodones said that wasn’t enough.

“It is a very substantial item,” he said Monday. “I just think roughly half an hour of questions is a process issue that troubles me.”

The proposed historic district covers a stretch of North Street between Congress and Walnut streets and much of the section of Munjoy Hill between Kellogg Street, Congress Street and Eastern Promenade. The Historic Preservation Board signed off on the idea in November 2019 and in August the Planning Board recommended 4-3 that the council do the same.

The city’s historic preservation ordinance would dictate how exterior alterations and additions to buildings in the district are handled. Approval from the Historic Preservation Board or staff would be necessary before exterior work could be done. The district would include 427 residential parcels, close to half of the buildings on Munjoy Hill.

Proponents of the designation say the designation is needed to preserve the architectural character of the housing on Munjoy Hill, some of which is more than 170 years old.

Opponents object to the designation because they feel it infringes on what they can or cannot do to their homes and properties.

The historic district has the support of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization.

“Overall what we hope is the historic district designation will allow a bit of oversight, a bit more thought and a dampening, so to speak, of the slash, burn and rebuild that has gone on,” Wayne Valzania, the group’s president, told The Forecaster in August.

Four years ago, he said, there was a push to develop Munjoy Hill after some zoning rules were relaxed, putting into jeopardy the houses that have been standing on the hill for generations.

The proposed historic district covers a stretch of North Street between Congress and Walnut streets and much of the section of Munjoy Hill between Kellogg Street, Congress Street and Eastern Promenade. Contributed / City of Portland

Development of the Hill began in earnest around the 1850s after the establishment of the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad and Portland Company. The area saw a second wave of rebuilding after the Great Fire of 1866, another wave in the late 19th and early 2oth centuries by European immigrants. The large houses overlooking the Eastern Promenade were also constructed at the turn of the 20th century. The hill was once one of the more affordable areas of the city to live, but over the years as older buildings were purchased, they were demolished and new buildings with more expensive luxury condos went up in their place.

The historic district would be the 12th in the city – historic districts cover much of the West End and sections of Commercial, Congress and India streets – and the eighth on the peninsula.

While not part of the Munjoy district, the Historic Preservation Board and Planning Board recommend designating six more properties as individual historic landmarks: 103 Congress St., 7 Lafayette St., 12 Montreal St., 51 Monument St., 21 Sheridan St. and 28 Waterville St.

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