Minutes of the West End Neighborhood Association (WENA) Meeting
Wednesday, 8 April 2015
Reiche Community Room
Board members present: Jennifer Defilipp, Rosanne Graef, Ian Jacob (president), Mitch Mason, Christine McHale (vice-president), Michel Michaud, Elizabeth Parsons (secretary)
Others present: Todd Alexander, Herb Adams, Jenny Anastasoff, David Argitis, Lauren Church, Sarah Colton, Eli Dale, Webb Ferrall, Peter Hall, Sandra Kynes, Janet Mishoe, Lin Parsons, Steven Scharf, Pamela Shaw, Dick Stevens, Penny Stevens, Judy Watson, Tony Zeli
A pre-meeting, beginning at 6:00 PM, took place regarding proposed construction at 665 Congress Street. Jonathan Culley of Redfern Properties and his colleagues presented ideas related to their requests for a change in zoning to the B3 designation. Their envisioned eight-story building would house Joe’s Variety (formerly Joe’s Smokeshop) on the ground floor. The rest of the building would contain 132 market rate rental units. The mix of floor plans includes: 39 studio apartments and 75 one bedroom apartments with the remainder being two bedroom apartments. Mr. Culley mentioned that the building would be designed to incorporate energy efficiency measures such as heat pumps and that the number of anticipated parking spaces would take into account trends towards decreasing car ownership. Several questions were, nonetheless, raised about parking matters. Other concerns included security issues, lack of outdoor access/space for residents, and the shadow effect of such a large structure on surrounding dwellings. Questions were also raised about the impact of construction on Joe’s Variety’s operations. Mr. Culley told the group that they would expect to re-open the store even before the rest of building would be finished.
The pre-meeting concluded at 6:45 PM and the regular meeting was called to order at 7:00. The 50/50 raffle opened and self-introductions were conducted.
The previous meeting’s minutes were accepted as written.
In the treasurer’s absence, the president reported that the WENA general fund account stands at $198.59 while the swim fund contains $5,417.01. This report was accepted.
Board members’ reports:
David Argitis and Sarah Colton reported that Portland has recently experienced a spate of armed robberies (fifteen in total) with a couple of incidents occurring in the West End. The police have a suspect under consideration. Motor vehicle burglaries continue to occur with even cars in garages being targeted. As the weather warms Officer Argitis has resumed his bike patrol. The West End, Bayside and Mid-town are the only areas of the city currently to have bike officers. A general discussion ensued about the robberies.
A drug take back event, hosted by Maine Medical Center will take place on 25 April from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Prescription medications may be dropped off at MMC for safe disposal. This program is part of an effort to reduce drugs in the public domain that can be misused.
Also on 25 April from 1:00 to 3:00 PM AARP will sponsor a free document shredding opportunity. This event, taking place at the East End School, is intended to help reduce identity fraud.
Other items of note included:
- A series of property taggings on Winter Street. The perpetrator has been caught. The new Neighborhood Prosecutor (Rich Bianculli: firstname.lastname@example.org) encourages people to take photos of any such markings and submit them to the police. His office also has cleaning solution and supplies that can be used to remove graffiti. A question was raised as to whether or not the taggers themselves are ordered to go back and clean up what they have done. Officer Argitis responded that decisions about reparations remain with the judge. The Service Works and Graffiti Busters programs of Learning Works do work with the City on this matter however. (FMI: http://www.learningworks.me/Community-Service).
- A question was raised about news that the Parkside Neighborhood Association has an arrangement with Maine Hardware whereby residents may receive discounts on motion-detecting sensor lights. Sarah Colton responded that Parkside initiated this arrangement with Maine Hardware and that WENA might consider making a similar arrangement. Ian Jacob will follow on the matter.
- Some WENA members reported problems with getting the City’s Fix-it Portland program to work (http://portlandmaine.gov/1448/Fix-It-Portland. This is not a website run by the police department. Sarah Colton recommended contacting Dawn Davidson in public works at 207-765-8011.
WENA Committees: Ian Jacob reviewed the status of his plan to institute several initiatives, requesting that members comment on which committees seem most reasonable and which may not need to be formed. He noted that committee membership need not be viewed as an indefinite committee. And he stated his expectation that WENA board members commit to some measure of involvement as a way of expressing dedication to the greater good. Ian will follow on all with Board members.
- Online presence: This will consist of updating WENA’s website and Facebook page. Dick Stevens will continue updating the current website until someone can be found to design and maintain a new website. Currently Clifford Tremblay will serve on this committee.
- Membership/outreach: This group will combine with the Restaurant Night committee (mentioned at previous meetings) producing a membership of: Ian Jacob, Michel Michaud, Liz Parsons, Jen Defilipp, and Janet Mishoe. Activities will include contacting local businesses and other organizations for mutual support.
- Yard sale: Penny Stevens, Jeanne Swanton, and Judy Witherell are working with the Reiche PTO about possibly combining forces in June. Penny and Judy signed up for this and they are thinking about having the sale in June. A WENA yard sale could take place at the same time that Reiche does their road race and yard sale.
- Parks/Gardens committee is being rolled into the Together WECAN initiative, the initial training for which takes place on Saturday, 11 April in the Reiche Community Room. Rosanne Graef leads this group.
- WENA/Reiche Community Center: Jeanne Swanton, Mitch Mason, Rosanne Graef, and Holly Seeliger have met with the Superintendent of Schools about having more educational events held at the Reiche Community Center. Rosanne asked WENA members to review the Portland Adult Education brochure and let her know if there are particular offerings identified there that would be of interest to West Enders. Anyone interested in teaching an adult enrichment program should also contact Rosanne. Committee members are trying to set up an appointment with the Director of Portland’s Adult Ed enrichment program as their next step.
Joy Place Update. Todd Alexander made a presentation about his objectives for this property that sits across the street from Reiche School. Mr. Alexander has the property under contract and, on 13 May, the Housing and Community Development Committee will consider whether or not to issue a public RFP for purchase and development of adjacent property 157 Brackett Street. This is a City-owned parking lot reserved for use of Reiche School during the day. Mr. Alexander stated that if an RFP process is authorized he will bid on the property. He then presented to the group his ideas for the use of the whole, should his bid be accepted. His development plan would:
- include a smaller unit housing development with parking. These units would be for sale at affordable prices (not as luxury units).
- include a financing mechanism to help pay for some traffic calming measures outside of Reiche School that the City has not yet been able to undertake.
Mr. Alexander encouraged WENA members to urge that any RFP conditions be well defined by the City. WENA should also press the City Council to have a representative appointed to the RFP review group. Ian Jacob will take this up. A discussion then ensued about affordable housing issues within the City as a whole. The group thanked Mr. Alexander for his presentation.
Mercy Hospital/Fore River campus plans. A meeting to update the public on the status of Mercy Hospital’s plans will take place on 28 April from 5:30 to 8:00 PM at St. Luke’s Episcopal Cathedral on State Street.
Portland Art Committee. This group has contacted Ian about a gazebo they own but that they need to move. It is about 8 feet wide and they have offered it to the West End. Members decided the best location would be in Harborview Park so Ian will follow on this with them.
West End Tree Planting Program. Anne Pringle has advised that an anonymous donor will contribute $5,000 to the City’s Tree Trust, specifically for trees to be planted in the West End and to encourage neighbors to join in this effort. Trees and locations throughout the West End will be selected by Jeff Tarling and planted by the City. Contributions should be made payable to the City of Portland and are tax deductible. Checks should be sent to Anne Pringle, 44 Neal Street, who will transmit them to the City for acknowledgment.
Waynflete/Reiche 5K. Waynflete School will host this race on 16 May in conjunction with Reiche School. More information may be obtained on Waynflete’s website: http://www.waynflete.org/.
Spring cleaning. WENA will observe our semi-annual neighborhood clean-up day on Saturday, 2 May. This will come in conjunction with a larger community clean up initiative being conducted by Ocean Classroom and Mt. Washington Valley, NH. Over 30 towns in Maine and New Hampshire will be involved. In Portland, St. John’s Valley Neighborhood Association will also use this date for their clean-up day. Sarah Colton will organize the necessary supplies.
State and High Streets two-way conversion. The final meeting of the study group will take place on 3 June. Ian asked that WENA members come to the May meeting prepared to recommend talking points that he can pass along since this final session is not public. He did observe that a majority of the study group currently favors the two-way conversion.
Michel Michaud conducted the raffle. With all winners donating their contributions back to WENA, the net gain was $16.
The meeting adjourned at: 8:19 PM.