CITY OF PORTLAND
Members of the Planning Board
FROM: David A. Marshall, City Councilor, District 2
DATE: September 22, 2009
RE: Waynflete Overlay Zone
The purpose of this memo is to provide history of the process that I have participated in to date.
After months of meetings with representatives from Waynflete School, the Western Promenade Neighborhood Association, the West End Neighborhood Association, and City Planning Staff it is clear that we can all agree on one thing: that an overlay zone for the Waynflete campus is a critical policy tool needed to provide long-term predictability for campus development.
While the months of meetings through the CCC and two neighborhood forums have brought us to our common support of utilizing an overlay zone, there are still very different perspectives regarding the additional number of residences that should be included within the overlay zone. Throughout the process I maintained the position of protecting the housing stock and the tax base, as consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
Early in CCC process, all parties embraced the overlay zone concept, however, it was apparent that Waynflete and the WPNA had vastly different perspectives on acceptability of campus expansion into residences in the neighborhood. Waynflete was considering all of the buildings within the boundaries of Spring, Danforth, Emery, and Fletcher Streets.
WPNA was considering all residential expansion off the table and insisted that the campus not expand beyond its current footprint.
As the CCC proceeded in discussion, Waynflete introduced a couple of draft scenarios for the campus. The first was to expand the campus footprint to include seven residences and one institutional building (St. Louis Cathedral), while constructing additions and structures to the campus. The second scenario was working within the existing footprint of the campus and building additions and structures, which Waynflete did not see as acceptable and was using the scenario to illustrate its point. WPNA objected to the first scenario of campus expansion and continued to insist on maintaining the existing footprint.
In the spirit of compromise, I suggested to both sides a middle ground proposal to incorporate an additional four properties into a possible overlay zone, two residences and two institutional properties. Although I did not name the residential properties - which I intentionally left undesignated to allow Waynflete flexibility - I did suggest including Williston West Church in the overlay zone in addition to St. Louis Cathedral. The rationale for suggesting the inclusion of Williston West is due the proximity to the campus, the established relationship between the Waynflete and Williston West, and the availability of space at Williston West. Also with the proposal was the intent to maintain the current level of housing units and property taxes.
In addition to the middle ground proposal I asked the members of the CCC to participate in a neighborhood forum to bring the discussion to a wider audience. All parties agreed to participate in the forum that I would host at Williston West.
Over one hundred people participated in the Waynflete Overlay Zone Neighborhood Forum I hosted at Williston West. Waynflete presented the two overlay zone drafts and presented future space needs. Then, WPNA announced its support of the middle ground proposal that I had suggested. WENA expressed concern with including St. Louis in the overlay zone, however, did not take a position of the various scenarios at the time. Public comment was taken and recorded at the event and residents were encouraged to provide written feedback at the forum or through email. The forum at Williston West was successful in widening the discussion and made it clear that support existed for both sides of the debate with a desire to see compromise.
After the forum at Williston West, it became clear that WENA desired a greater participation in the discussion and requested a forum be held at Reiche Community Center. All parties agreed to participate in an additional forum with a similar format and the event was scheduled.
At the Waynflete Overlay Zone Neighborhood Forum I hosted at Reiche, over thirty people participated. Waynflete made its presentation again. Next, WPNA announced its plan for an overlay zone, largely based on the middle ground proposal. WPNA’s overlay zone proposal included a map of the campus, which designated two residential properties along with the inclusion of St. Louis and Williston West. Then, WENA reiterated its concern of the inclusion of St. Louis in the overlay zone. During the public comment portion, it was clear that opposition to the inclusion of St. Louis in the overlay zone was growing. Residents were encouraged to provide written feedback through email as well. The forum at Reiche was successful in further engaging the residents within the West End Neighborhood Association.
At the next CCC meeting, the group discussed the feedback received from the forums. During the meeting WENA announced its support for WPNA’s overlay zone proposal. All the parties agreed that it was not necessary to include St. Louis and Williston West in the overlay zone. Instead, the overlay zone would not restrict the ability of Waynflete from utilizing institutional properties outside of the zone. Finally, at the end of the meeting I requested that parties join for one final meeting of the CCC and the parties agreed.
During the final meeting of the CCC, Waynflete presented its final proposal for an overlay zone. The overlay zone would include five additional residences and the back yard of another residential property. Under the proposal, Waynflete School would consist of a campus core and sub districts with a couple buildings to remain completely residential. Additionally, the overlay zone would provide flexibility to add residential units in some buildings while removing them from others with the intent of preserving the same number of residential units and to maintain a similar tax base.
The CCC meetings and neighborhood forums helped to bring the conversation regarding Waynflete expansion from two-city-blocks to five residences. While WPNA and WENA oppose the overlay zone application brought forth by Waynflete, we have narrowed the debate to four residences, the two on Grayhurst Street and the two on Storer Street. Currently, these four residences are separated from the campus by a brick wall and a row of trees, which create a solid barrier between the neighborhood and Waynflete. Even though Waynflete did not embrace the my middle ground proposal and the neighborhood associations are still in opposition, I feel the work done to date had placed the Planning Board in a better position to provide a well-informed recommendation to the City Council.
David A. Marshall
City Councilor, District 2