Bayside Residents and Property Owners Appeal Planning Board Approval of Midtown

PORTLAND – A group of Bayside residents and business owners have gone to court to appeal the Portland Planning Board’s approval of the massive Midtown project proposed for their neighborhood.

The appeal was filed today (Wednesday, Feb. 12) at the Superior Court in Portland.

Grounds for the appeal center on the project’s failure to comply with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and land use ordinances as well as the lack of Planning Board authority to approve the more than 20 significant waivers granted from city standards and codes.

The Bayside community had adopted a road map for development called the New Vision for Bayside, incorporated into the city’s Comprehensive Plan, that serves as the governing document expressing neighborhood goals and plans for development. The appeal argues that the City Council zoning amendment of height restrictions and Planning Board rule changes, adopted without first amending the Comprehensive Plan in consultation with the neighborhood, should be overturned by the court.

Among violations of existing city commitments detailed in the appeal are the Midtown project’s scale, uniform massing, absence of street pass throughs, blockage of view corridors, lack of affordable housing for diverse income levels, and failure to provide any community or green space.

The appeal also challenges the incomplete application submitted by the Miami, Florida based developer, The Federated Companies, which excluded critical required documentation of neighborhood impacts from the proposed towers and accompanying parking garage. The legal suit is detailed in a seven-count complaint that also cites multiple violations of state statutes, including protection of the public in hazardous flood prone areas. (For more information about the basis for the appeal, download it HERE)

Among the litigants is Peter Monro, a co-founder of Keep Portland Livable, a group formed to advocate for urban design that is right for Portland.

“We’ve taken our concerns about Midtown to each Planning Board workshop and public hearing for the past year,” said Monro. “But with City Hall determined to build at any cost, the developer has lacked any incentive to compromise. And the Planning Board has failed in its duty to uphold the rules and standards that have made Portland a great small city.”

Fellow litigant Martin Margulis, a Bayside home owner, continued: “The developer’s presentation to the city and public misrepresented the impact the Midtown project will have on the West Bayside community. By not presenting a 3D model, the mammoth scale of this project and its effects on the neighborhood have been kept hidden.”

Also joining the appeal are the companies that own the properties on which are located many of Bayside’s most significant businesses – including Trader Joe’s, Walgreens and Planet Fitness – as well as the Department of Health and Human Services Building on Marginal Way.

Following closely on the court’s rulings in the Congress Square Plaza and Williston West cases, the group of litigants believe that the court will again find that the city has overreached its authority and ignored the will of the city’s residents and taxpayers.

“Our City Hall is selling Bayside and Portland short,” stated Charlotte Fullam, a Bayside resident and litigant, “and we’re even subsidizing a developer’s private parking garage with $9 million of our tax dollars. Midtown is comparable to the urban redevelopment disasters of the 1970’s like Franklin Arterial or building the Holiday Inn on Spring Street. We can and must do better.”

Keep Portland Livable, which has more than 600 members, is asking residents concerned about quality urban design in Portland to join the organization by signing up on its website, and to follow in on Twitter and Facebook.

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