The company behind an ambitious redevelopment on Portland’s eastern waterfront has asked for changes to the scope of the project and its zoning after city staff identified multiple violations at the site over the last year and a half.

Portland Foreside Development Co. has asked for approval to modify its master plan with an interim plan for a 10-acre parcel that would allow the company to keep several temporary sheds and a trailer that service its marina for as long as three years while it gets approval for a permanent building outlined in the master plan approved by the city five years ago.

The company wants a zoning change to allow the waterfront bar and restaurant it has operated since 2020 in violation of current zoning rules.

At least one neighbor is upset with the developer’s actions, especially fencing and buildings that separate its waterfront property from a public walkway and obscure views and access to the water, which were called for under the master plan.

“I think there are a lot of residents of Munjoy Hill that are a bit frustrated with what was permitted and originally approved versus what they are doing and the city is not really enforcing any of this,” said Karen Snyder. “They want to privatize the water views in that area when they were promising the public would have access.”

Portland Foreside was approved in 2016 for a multi-phase plan to redevelop the former Portland Co. property into housing, offices, shops, restaurants, parking and a marina.

In spring 2020, the company received approval to put temporary structures, including an office trailer, three bathroom sheds, a laundry shed, utility shed and three guest services sheds, at its 141-slip marina. The structures were supposed to be removed by November 2020.

But it also added a drink service bar, walk-in refrigerator and storage shed in 2020 with no permits or approvals, according to a May consent agreement between the city and the developer.

It also started selling food and drinks at the marina, even though waterfront zoning rules specifically prohibit it from doing so. Portland Foreside was able to sidestep that regulation by receiving consecutive 14-day event permits for a food truck and liquor service at the marina. The city cited the company last July for installing the buildings without permits.

Even though the buildings were meant to be temporary, they were not removed last fall and remain on the waterfront. The company was cited by city inspectors in March for failing to remove the structures.

It was cited again in April after inspectors found even more unpermitted buildings and equipment, including a shade structure, boat-waste and flush-water holding tanks, had been installed along with unpermitted electrical work and safety violations.

The city and Portland Foreside signed a consent agreement in May that noted the company had fixed or would fix many of the violations inspectors identified, and the city allowed it to keep getting catering permits for its bar and restaurant. It was fined $11,100 – to be erased if the developer complies with all terms of the agreement.

In an email, the company said the Marina Bar was a way to keep employees of Evo Kitchen+Bar, owned by a member of its leadership team, employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bar was received well and developers said they met with the city in 2020 to find a way to make it permanent.

“Unfortunately, as with everything in the COVID environment, the city had many other emergency priorities at the time, and wasn’t able to process our zoning text amendment application until about a year and change after we first initiated the conversation,” the company said.

The interim plan proposed by the company was contemplated in its consent agreement, but the application is not intended to resolve its violations, the company added.

“The interim master plan acknowledges that our master development plan build-out is anticipated to take up to 10 years to complete,” the company said. “We are working in an interim condition with Fore Points Marina while we work though the process to construct a permanent marina office and other buildings to support the large marina operations.”

The Portland Planning Board will hold a workshop Tuesday to discuss the company’s interim plan and zoning amendment. It has so far received more than 100 written public comments, the vast majority in favor of changing the zoning to allow the marina restaurant.

Part of its plan includes removing some of the fencing along the waterfront, said Portland Deputy Director of Planning and Urban Development Kevin Kraft. Portland Foreside had said the fencing was needed because parts of the shoreline are unstable and unsafe.

City staff support changing the zoning rules.

“Their text amendment to allow restaurants and food and beverage is something we are supportive of, it is something that can complement a marina,” Kraft said.

The zoning change would apply only to the marina and would not allow more waterfront bars or eateries, he added.


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