Friday, February 25, 2011


24 hours or $100, city tightens rules on sidewalk dumping

By Matt Dodge

Feb 25, 2011 12:00 am

Portland property owners will now be financially responsible for household items left on sidewalks and streets in front of their buildings after the city council voted unanimously Wednesday night to amend the city's garbage, waste and junk disposal ordinances.

Property owner who fail to remove items including mattresses, sofas and chairs will now be assessed a minimum $100 fee if they fail to take action within 24 hours of being notified by the city.

The new ruling ramps up the time frame of the previous system, under which property owners were given three notices to remove trash before a fine was assessed.

“Something that would take at least a week now has the potential to take 24 hours. I think this is a more appropriate, streamlined approach,” said City Councilor Dave Marshall, whose district include Parkside and the West End.

Marshall said the mandate for a swifter response should help to combat any perception among residents that such dumping is acceptable. “Once you get one piece outside, unless you deal with it, you give the message to people that it’s okay and the situation can quickly spiral out of control,” he said.

Some councilors expressed concern that dumpers may come from miles around to unload their junk in an urban area where it won’t be noticed or traced back to them.

"Some cities have drive-by shootings. We have drive-by dumpings," said City Councilor Ed Suslovic. The program will be reviewed in six months.

For Portland, large curbside trash items have been a growing problem ever since the city eliminated a heavy item pickup program three years ago amid large-scale budget trimming.

The issue came to a head last summer as some renters, wary of a perceived bed bug epidemic or maybe just cleaning house, dumped couches, mattresses and other furniture along Portland’s sidewalks and streets.

“It’s been an issue for a while. Over the summer we saw a many bulky, large items being left in sidewalks, so the city council asked city staff to come up with some sort of proposal to address the problem,” said city spokesperson Nicole Clegg.

“Part of the problem is we really didn't have a means for enforcement; now we can have someone who can go and inspect and get in contact with the property owner. By and large once that happens, the property owner is compliant,” she said.

That someone is Suzanne Hunt, the newly hired sanitation compliance officer who will respond to complaints as a liaison between property owners and the city.

Under the new system, if a property owner refuses to remove garage from their property, the city will pay for the collection of the waste and then bill the owner. The city may put a lien on a property if owners do not pay the charge.

Each infraction will carry a minimum fee of $100, and the city may charge an additional $100 for every cubic yard of material removed.
“It’s trying to raise public awareness that sidewalks are not the appropriate place to dispose of large items or anything that's not in a blue bag put out on trash day,” said Clegg.
“It’s a community consciousness we’re hoping to raise an awareness around. We’re hopeful that by raising awareness, property owners and residents on street, when they see someone dumping something, will make it clear to them it’s not appropriate,” she said.

While the new guidelines might seem strict and swift to some, city councilors say it’s a measured response to a growing problem.

“There was some concern expressed saying that it was a little heavy handed, and I hear what they’re saying," said Marshall, "but when you look at some of the conditions we have in some of the more densely populated urban neighborhoods, it become quite apparent that the city needs to have a quick response to mattresses, couches and overflowing dumpsters.”

Marshall said there is a “chronic pattern associated with landlords who don't live in city and are neglecting their property,” but suggested that covert, dump-in-the-night litterbugs might also be to blame — something the neighborhood prosecutor will have to investigate when assessing fines.
“If we contact the landlord and their response is ‘somebody just dumped all this on my property’ we’ll have them talk to our neighborhood prosecutor and she can ask questions like 'what did they look like, what kind of vehicle did they drive?’ and we’ll pursue that individual,” said Marshall.

“If it’s a situation where it doesn't seem like the city had a clear case to pin responsibility on that landlord, the city obviously isn't going to force it,” he said. “Our goal is to try to keep our streets clean and safe, and this measure will allow us to respond more quickly.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Portland bus service may back bid to loosen billboard ban

By Kate Bucklin

Feb 22, 2011 11:10 am

PORTLAND — A bill submitted by a Portland legislator would allow advertising in bus shelters, which is currently banned by the state's anti-billboard law.

District 116 Rep. Denise Harlow, D-Portland, said her bill would allow towns and cities to decide whether they want to allow advertisements inside bus shelters. She said the move could generate revenue for public transportation agencies to maintain shelters and pay for new ones.

The Greater Portland Transit District (Metro) board of directors is scheduled to vote Thursday, Feb. 24, on whether to support the bill.

City Councilor Ed Suslovic, who sits on the Metro board, approached Harlow with the idea. He said allowing poster-sized advertisements similar to those allowed in many cities outside of Maine is an obvious opportunity.

"It would be a very narrow exemption to the billboard law, and it would not supersede any local laws regarding advertising," Suslovic said. He added that Metro could have a policy regarding allowable advertising, and would expect a prohibition on religious or tobacco ads.

City Councilor David Marshall, who is also a Metro director, opposes allowing ads. He said Portland is unique because of its lack of outdoor advertising in the downtown area.

"Most other cities you visit have billboard advertising all over," Marshall said. "We need to build on our brand. We don't need a barrage of advertising."

Harlow's bill was undergoing revision last week, and Harlow said she expects it to be assigned to a legislative committee for consideration in March.

The Metro board meets at 7:45 a.m. Thursday at 114 Valley St.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or

Sale of Eastland Park Hotel in Portland is imminent

By Kate Bucklin

Feb 23, 2011 7:00 am

PORTLAND — A Columbus, Ohio-based investment company plans to buy the Eastland Park Hotel by the end of this month.

RockBridge Capital, a partner in RB Portland LLC, has the 241-room hotel under contract from the current owner, Portland Hotel Associates. RockBridge is expected to make a significant investment in the 85-year-old High Street landmark.

Bob Indeglia, president of Magna Hospitality Group – a partner in Portland Hotel Associates – confirmed the pending sale this week, but said confidentiality restrictions prevented him from disclosing any details.

Portland Hotel Associates has owned the Eastland since 2000, when the property was acquired through auction. The group has renovated the two-building hotel in the last few years and placed the property up for sale last fall.

RockBridge has invested more than $3 billion in 300 "assets" across the country since 1992, according to the firm's website. It partners with hotel operators and well-known hospitality chains, including Hyatt, Sheraton, Marriott and Hampton Inn.

No one at the company could be reached early this week for comment, but city officials said its investment into the Arts District hotel is an exciting prospect.

City Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell said RockBridge is doing due diligence now, and has been in contact with the city about the sale.

Mitchell referred further questions, including whether the Eastland would be rebranded as part of a national chain, to RockBridge. He said that when a large property such as the Eastland changes hands, it generally brings about new investment.

City Councilor David Marshall said the most important thing to him is that investors have the capital to improve the building. In a city that prides itself on independent businesses – especially in the Arts District – Marshall said he had not yet heard any backlash about the hotel becoming a chain property, but guessed he would.

"My hope is that substantial investment goes along with new ownership," he said.

Portland Downtown District Executive Director Jan Beitzer said she hopes the new owner will continue to renovate the Eastland. She pointed out that Magna Hospitality's projects included rejuvenating the Top of the East lounge.

"That's a very well-known bar," she said. "It offers spectacular views of the city."

Beitzer said the Eastland, downtown's second largest conference space, brings people into the city year round, not just during the summer.

RockBridge applied for state food and beverage permits on Feb. 3.

According to a food establishment application submitted to the city by Kenneth Krebs, RockBridge executive vice president and general counsel, RB Portland plans to acquire the hotel and continue normal operations.

The document says the purchase agreement for the property has a closing date of no later than Feb. 28.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Portland seeks more input on new Amtrak station

By Randy Billings

Feb 22, 2011 8:10 am

PORTLAND — The Transportation Committee wants the city to assert itself when it comes to planning the future of passenger rail service.

But before that can happen, policy makers must develop a uniform vision to guide land use decisions.

The new effort comes at a time where the operators of the Amtrak Downeaster are commissioning a study that could lead to a new passenger train station near the Casco Bay Bridge on the western waterfront.

Evaluating the functionality of the Downeaster's existing station near Thompson's Point and exploring a possible move to a two-track, center-platform West Commercial Street station are part of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority's plans for extending Downeaster service to Freeport and Brunswick.

Last week, the executive director of the rail authority updated the Transportation Committee on the project. The goal is to increase ridership, while addressing challenges to establishing northbound service, not only to Brunswick's Main Street Station, but also for rail service to the Auburn area.

But members of the committee – three city councilors – said NNEPRA's presentation lacked specifics and did not leave them with the impression they would have a seat at the table.

Committee Chairman Kevin Donoghue on Monday said the presentation seemed more like a sales pitch than an informational meeting with a vested stakeholder.

"It became clear we need to develop and assert our interests as a city and as a land use regulator," he said

A one-page staff summary of the planning effort was the only public document provided prior to the meeting.

But NNEPRA defined the project scope and idea of a West Commercial Street train station last March, and recently issued a detailed request for qualifications, or an RFQ, to prospective consultants who would lead the planning study.

According to the RFQ, the planning study, funded by a $750,000 planning grant, is scheduled to conclude in December. The consultant would complete the Portland train station portion of the study by November.

The RFQ calls for architectural renderings, a "high-level capital budget" and an analysis of each option's projected impact on passenger demand and the local economy.

NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn on Monday said the councilors did not receive the detailed information they wanted last week because a consultant has not been hired.

Quinn said the authority will likely take the next month to go through the more than half-dozen proposals received by the Feb. 18 deadline. Once a consultant is chosen, a formal process will be established, she said.

Quinn said the city will have a seat at the table, but said "the table hasn't even been built yet." She also welcomed the city's involvement throughout the planning process, and said she stated that desire several times at last week's meeting – so she was surprised the city councilors left that meeting with a different impression.

"I think I made it very clear that anything we did would have to be with the full input and support of the city, because we wouldn't be able to move forward without doing that," Quinn said.

While Donoghue originally said it didn't seem like NNEPRA intended to invite elected officials into the process, he said his impression changed after he spoke with Quinn on Monday.

Councilor David Marshall acknowledged that city has not been aggressive in asserting its interests or vision for future rail service in the city, and said it was "high time" to do so.

Marshall said elected officials are the ones most closely tied to the interests of residents and should be in the driver's seat of the planning process, especially a potential train station on the waterfront.

"The Transportation Committee is looking for a really robust public process," Marshall said. "There's a lot of stakeholders here that need to be heard by the city as we take a position on whether this is the appropriate location for a train station."

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or

Monday, February 21, 2011


Where Fore art thou?

By Matt Dodge

Feb 09, 2011 12:00 am

People have called it an eyesore, an embarrassment, and even described it as dangerous.

Now they’ll have to say goodbye as a controversial landscape sculpture is set to be removed from the city’s public art collection.

The city council unanimously voted down a resolution Monday night that would have encouraged the Public Art Committee to consider relocating the “Tracing the Fore” sculpture from its current Boothby Square location to another site in Portland.

“I don’t see deaccessioning as a repudiation of public art, I see it as a wide acknowledgement of failure of this piece to succeed in fitting in with it’s location,” said councilor John Anton.

The city council voted 7-3 in November to remove Shauna Gillies-Smith’s piece. But the search for a new location began in earnest amongst the art committee when city councilor Dave Marshall suggested the committee draft a resolution to gauge council support for relocation.

Monday night, the council met the relocation proposal with a resounding no, unanimously voting not to support the resolution with councilors citing the $30,000 to $50,000 price tag of such a move as a major deterrent.

The art committee will not discuss options for deaccessioning the piece, which include selling the sculpture to a private collector, returning it to the artist or selling it off for scrap. However, the committee will vote on a course of action and make a recommendation to the city council, which may approve or deny that plan for the landscape sculpture.

“If the artist came to us and said ‘we want to get that back’, that's something that the community and the council could consider. Or we could sell it for scrap and make some money off it that way,” said Marshall.

But don’t expect the city to break even in selling the piece. The sculpture initially cost the city $135,000 in materials, labor and artist fees and will cost around $8,000 to remove, including landscaping for the square.

“It’s likely the cost of removal will exceed what we’ll get from selling it or scrapping it,” Marshall said.

As a member of the Public Art Committee and an artist himself, Marshall sponsored the resolution, but was glad to see the plans for relocation nipped in the bud.

“I have a lot of respect for artists, but as as artist I can say not every piece I have done has been my best and we need to just accept that sometimes the execution of an idea is not necessarily in sync with people’s concepts,” he said.

The piece came under scrutiny last summer from some Boothby Square business owners who said that the piece never lived up to the artists concept, with grass failing to grow an appropriate height to simulate waves on the Fore River as intended.

But Anton said the city must also take it’s share of the blame for the sculpture not living up to its concept due to a lack of maintenance. “We need to acknowledge the city’s role in this piece’s failure, but I think the important thing to remember is that we tried.

“It was a noble attempt, now let’s cut our losses and see what new, great pieces can emerge from the public art committee,” Anton said.

Matthew Cardente led the charge to oust the sculpture, requesting the piece be removed soon after moving his commercial real estate offices to the square last April.

“From start to finish I think it was a mistake, but I think it’s good people can suck it up and I commend the council for not even voting to relocate it,” he said.

Cardente, who had pledged to help fund the sculptures removal last summer, said he will honor that commitment knowing that the money won’t be spent relocating the piece. “I am willing to donate $1,000 personally to start raising the funds to do something,” he said.

The controversy surrounding “Tracing the Fore” will hopefully change the way in which the city goes about installing public art, said Cardente.

“I think it will set better standards or guidelines, getting more input from people on these projects, not only what they look like, but what their impact will be on the neighborhood,” he said.

Cardente said he would like to see the sculpture removed in time for a revamped Boothby Square come summer. “My hope is that it’s removed in the Spring and that whatever they decree to do, flowerbed or whatever, will be done in time for tourist season,” he said.

Council considers sculpture relocation

By Matt Dodge

Feb 08, 2011 12:00 am

The city council may well have sealed the fate for the controversial “Tracing the Fore” sculpture last night, voting unanimously to deny a resolution to support relocating the piece.

Without the support of the council, the Portland Public Art Committee (PPAC) must now decide whether to remove the piece from their collection or continue with plans for relocation or storage of the piece. It seems likely that the group will return the work to the artists.

“It’s time for us to move forward and let Tracing the Fore go,” said city councilor Dave Marshall before yesterday's meeting.
Marshall, himself an artist who also serves as a member of the PPAC and sponsored the resolution. “I’m going to ask the council to vote in the negative,” said Marshall, adding that “if it seemed like a close decision, I would want the committee to proceed [with relocation plans].”

He asked his fellow councilors to vote against the resolution.
At a meeting on January 19, the PPAC had begun looking for a new site for the sculpture when Marshall, a member of the committee, suggested the PPAC float a resolution to the council to gauge interest in spending more money on the maligned sculpture.

“I thought it would be a good idea for the committee to check in with council before committing a lot of time and energy of a volunteer committee and city staff.” said Marshall.

“There was some passing conversation with a couple city councilors and it seemed as though there were some concerns about the idea of spending a lot of money moving Tracing the Fore,” said Marshall.

The PPAC voted 7-3 in November to remove Gillies-Smith’s sculpture after an outcry from Boothby Square business owners, who circulated a petition to have the jagged-metal landscape sculpture removed.

The sculpture initially cost the city $135,000 in materials, labor and artist fees — $71,000 more than the project’s original estimate.

“We’re kind of at the point where we need to accept that Tracing the Fore didn’t work out for us in our collection,” said Marshall. “Outside of the public art committee, I’ve heard very few voices saying we should spend the money to relocate this,” he said.

The PPAC had been exploring relocation to a site along the Fore River Parkway Trail in the northerly open space of the Mercy Hospital campus plan on land owned by Mercy Hospital which is subject to an open space and public access easement to the City of Portland as a conditional rezoning.

The likely cost to relocate the piece is expected to be in the range of $30,000 to $50,000 according to the city’s website.

“The cost has already exceeded what everyone expect by far. I don't feel as though it the best expenditure of public art funds to be relocate this piece when we have a lot of pieces in our collection that need maintenance and we have some good opportunity to add some other pieces,” said Marshall.

Marshall said the money that would be required to relocate the sculpture would be better spent on future public art project, such as the Bayside Trail seating project, which aims to install unique artist-designed benches along the city’s newest walking path.

“If we decide to move forward with that, it will take up a good amount of funds,” said Marshall.

Before Monday evening’s vote, councilor Cheryl Leeman said she was also wary of relocation, especially given the cost. “We have enough money invested in a failed art project,” said said, calling the $30,000 to $50,000 price tag for relocation, “outrageous.”

“That’s taxpayer money, and at some point you have to be realistic,” said Leeman. “It’s like any project in the private sector of personal life, you get to pint where you need to make a decision if you keep spending money on it,” she said.

“It looked good on paper, but it might be time to bite the bullet and say this didn't work,” she said.

Leeman said that ideally she would like to see a private collector or organization step in and buy the piece. “That would be a nice option,” said Leeman.

Mayor Nick Mavodones was reserving judgement on the resolution until last night’s meeting.

“I’m going to wait and see what the testimony is on it,” said Mavodones. “I’m kind of on the fence, I hate to have an artist put in the work on commissioned piece and scrap it, but the additional cost is a deterrent,” he said.

February 8

It's final, sculpture in Old Port won't get a new life
City councilors unanimously decide that a controversial piece of public art should be dismantled rather than moved.

By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — One of the most controversial pieces of public art ever to be displayed in the city is on its way out.

click image to enlarge

"Tracing the Fore" at Boothby Square in the Old Port.
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The City Council voted unanimously Monday night against moving "Tracing the Fore" to the Fore River Parkway, near the Mercy Hospital campus.

Its recommendation will go to the city's Public Art Committee, which now must decide how to dispose of the landscape sculpture featuring stainless steel waves.

In what turned out to be a busy night, the council also voted to not renew the Cactus Club's liquor and special entertainment license. The Portland Police Department, citing poor management and several instances in which public safety was put at risk, had recommended that the licenses for the Old Port bar not be renewed.

City Councilor David Marshall, who is an artist and a member of the Public Art Committee, urged councilors not to support relocating Tracing the Fore.

"What we are trying to do tonight is to get some direction from the council," said Marshall.

The Public Art Committee voted 7-3 in November to preserve the piece, preferably by moving it out of the Old Port to a new location.

"Is this a good idea? That's why were are here tonight," said Tony Muench, a member of the committee.

The council said no, meaning the sculpture simply will be dismantled.

Marshall said it would cost the city $30,000 to $50,000 to move the sculpture from its current location in Boothby Square to a Fore River Parkway site.

Property owners around Boothby Square said the sculpture, designed by a Boston artist, Shauna Gillies-Smith, is just plain ugly and looks out of place.

The Public Art Committee chose Gillies-Smith's design in 2004, after a national competition, because it was mostly a natural approach to art – sculpted waves seeded with tall grass that would sweep over stainless steel forms representing the Fore River.

"The result was not what the council or the Public Art Committee ever intended," Marshall said. "It has become the most challenging piece in our public art collection."

"Like with everything. You win some, you lose some," said Councilor John Anton, who said he doesn't view the council vote as a repudiation of public art. Several councilors, including Anton, said they support public art.

Mayor Nicholas Mavodones Jr. said Gillies-Smith should be commended for her efforts, but, "I'm concerned with the amount of money that it would cost the city to relocate this."

Monday's hearing on whether to renew the Cactus Club's liquor licenses took more than two hours.

Councilors voted 7-1 – with Mavodones dissenting – not to renew the Fore Street's bar liquor and special entertainment licenses.

Cmdr. Vern Malloch, who is in charge of the Portland Police Department's uniform operations, cited several instances of liquor violations, public disturbances and fights that police allege are linked to the club's management.

"The police department has no confidence in the management abilities of the Cactus Club," Malloch said. "The public's safety in the Old Port would be greatly enhanced if the club were to be closed."

The club's owner, Thomas Manning, told the council that he was being singled out by police, given the volume of assaults and disturbances that occur throughout the Old Port.

Manning said he had to file a protection-from-harassment order against the department after he found out that officers in cruisers, parked across the street from his business, were videotaping his business.

That order was never enforced by the courts, Malloch said.

"This is our eleventh year of operation and all of a sudden we have poor management on our hands," said Manning, who noted that none of his neighbors or patrons came to the hearing to support the police department's allegations.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

Sculpture relocation lacks council support, says Marshall

By Matt Dodge

Jan 21, 2011 12:00 am

The future of the controversial Tracing the Fore sculpture is still uncertain as the Portland Public Art Committee considers either relocating the piece or removing it from their collection permanently.

While the head of the group's Tracing the Fore committee discussed possible sites where Shauna Gillies-Smith’s sculpture could be reinstalled, both the PPAC chairman and a city councilor voiced concerns that the committee might lack the funds to have the piece reinstalled.

While sub-committee chair Terry DeWan displayed maps and photos of a possible site for relocation along the Fore River adjacent to Mercy Hospital’s Fore River location, PPAC Jack Soley slowed down the proceedings, citing the cost of any such relocation.

“We don't have budget right now to relocate it,” said Soley, who hopes to have the committee devise a plan of action by spring so the much-maligned sculpture may be removed as soon as the ground thaws at Boothby Square.

“My concern is that we have a plan for spring and can hit the ground running as soon as it thaws,” said Soley.

Soley estimates that removal of the piece to run about $8,000 including landscaping, and another $25,000 to reinstall the sculpture at another location. “Bare minimum that’s a $35,000 to $40,000 project,” he said.

City Councilor Dave Marshall, who serves on the PPAC board, also brought a reality check to the process, advising his fellow members that they would likely lack the support of the city council if they attempted to relocated the piece.

“I’m not confident the votes will be there on the council to move the piece,” said Marshall, suggesting that the council might favor deaccessioning the piece — removing it from the PPAC’s collection so that it may be sold to a private collector or corporation.

Marshall said he would talk with the mayor and solicit some specific feedback for the committee on the issue, but advised the PPAC to not get too deep into the relocation process.

The sculpture initially cost the city $135,000 in materials, labor and artist fees — $71,000 more than the project’s original estimate.

The committee voted 7-3 in November to remove Gillies-Smith’s sculpture after an outcry from Boothby Square business owners, who circulated a petition to have the jagged-metal landscape sculpture removed from its location, citing issues of aesthetics and safety.

During the same meeting, the committee also discussed plans for a "second call" for entries in the Bayside seating project citing an underwhelming number and quality of entries in the first round.

At issue for the Bayside Seating Committee is how to solicit a larger and more impressive crop of bench designs. The project calls on local artists and designer to submit proposals for benches to be installed along the Bayside Trail, but the PPAC decided to reopen the search after receiving far fewer proposals than expected and having no clear favorites. “We need dozens [of submissions], not a dozen,” said Soley.
Some $2,174 of the $3,000 budgeted for the project has already been used, according to Alex Jaegerman, planning division director for the city.

“We’ll probably need to allocate additional funds,” said Jaegerman, who suggests that the process could be done cheaper the second time around. “I think by simplifying the process it will be manageable,” he said.

Some said the language of the call for submissions should be relaxed to encourage more adventurous, daring designs. The last proposal places a focus on Bayside’s historical context, asking for designs which tied into the industrial and maritime history of the neighborhood.

“We need to have a lighter touch,” said Alice Spencer, chair of the Bayside Seating Committee. “At the bottom it said ‘have fun,’ but it was clearly at the bottom.”
“Sometimes you get more interesting, lively ideas where you don't require too much heavy lifting from your candidates,” she said.

One artists in attendance said that the project’s requirements turned even him, a furniture maker, away from the bench-design contest.

“I read the proposal and said 'forget it, that’s way too much',” said Jamie Johnston, who taught at Maine College of Art and is considering joining the PPAC. “I don't do a lot of [requests for proposals] because I don't want to do the work before I know I have the job,” he said.

Councilor Marshall said that the idea of artists-designed benches is by no means an original project, suggesting the PPAC might receive more compelling submissions if it were to relax the guidelines even further.

“My feeling with the benches is that we didn't inspire a heck of a lot of people with it. It's been done before, it’s not a fresh new idea. I would like to be on the verge of doing something that is new,” he said.

Soley said that the bench project “does have merit” and he's willing to give it another try. “It seems the will of the committee is to try it one more time. If we don't get results we're looking for, we’ll know the idea is done and we don't need to pursue it anymore.”

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