Minutes of the West End Neighborhood Association (WENA) Meeting
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Reiche Community Room
Board members present: Jennifer Defilipp, Leana Good-Simpson (treasurer); Rosanne Graef, Ian Jacob (president), Elizabeth Parsons (secretary), Jeanne Swanton, Clifford Tremblay
Others present: Sarah Colton, Webb Ferrall, Peter Hall, Angie Helton; Sandra Kynes, Janet Mishoe, Dick Stevens, Spencer Thibodeau; Tony Zeli
The meeting was called to order at 6:35 PM and the 50/50 raffle commenced.
Angie Helton, who along with other colleagues had attended WENA’s March meeting, returned to give an update on the Portland Company complex development. In particular, she wanted to explain the current situation with regard to rezoning the area. The zoning designation sought is B6 which would allow the property be developed for mixed use. The City Council had intended to vote on this in May but the vote was postponed and will now take place on June 1st. She asked for support from WENA members to help move the project forward. In particular, Ms. Helton invited people to contact the City Council via email and/or to make statements at the June 1st meeting. There was a short Q and A following her presentation.
The secretary asked the assembled group their thoughts on the best procedure for distribution of minutes. It was agreed that the president would include a link to the minutes on WENA’s website when sending out meeting announcements. The minutes for April’s meeting were accepted as written.
The WENA swim account stands at $2,777.01. The treasurer reported that she had just paid an invoice for swim lessons for the entire school year. WENA’s regular account stands at $20.09. The report was accepted as given.
Board members’ reports
Rosanne Graef thanked WENA volunteers for participating in the May Day celebration at Congress Square Park. She also announced that the next Sunday (May 17th) at 8:00 AM there will be a planting sessions at the Park for which volunteers are needed.
She further reported having had a meeting with Bruce Hyman, who oversees transportation construction for the City. The following projects are on offer over the next two years:
- A traffic signal will be installed on Commercial Street at the Beech Street ramp this summer. Bike lanes will be designated.
- Franklin Street from Middle to Commercial will be reworked this summer to address ADA compliance issues. These will include curb cuts and signal upgrades. Commercial Street as far as the International Marine Terminal will receive similar upgrades.
- Next year there will be milling and filling on Commercial Street in connection with the IMT construction project.
- A sidewalk will be constructed on the side of York Street across from El Rayo Restaurant.
- Spring & Middle Streets from Temple to High Streets will undergo phase one of the planned renovation to eliminate the arterial feeling of the streets. This will involve removing the center median and gas line relocation on Spring Street. Each side of the streets will be made wider with more trees installed. Paving will take place in 2016.
- Bramhall Square will have some lighting and pedestrian accessibility upgrades.
- On High Street, the City is trying to fix storm water damage near Rufus Deering.
Further information may be obtained at www.portlandmaine.gov/480/2216/construction-projects.
Rosanne reminded the group about the West End Tree Trust. She invited people who see places in the West End where a tree used to be to contact her. She will put together a list of possible planting sites for Jeff Tarling, the City Arborist.
Jeanne Swanton reported on efforts to conduct more adult education enrichment classes at Reiche. She, Rosanne, and Holly Seeliger have been working on this. Meetings have taken place with the Superintendent of Schools and with the Head of Portland’s Adult Ed program. The results of these inquiries look very promising. Rosanne invited people to suggest classes they would attend if held at the School. She also asked people to identify themselves if they would like to teach an enrichment course. Such courses need a minimum of six participants. Teachers receive pay of $20/hour.
In Penny Stevens’s and Judy Witherell’s absence, Jeanne reported on progress towards a WENA yard sale this summer. She and Penny met with a PTO representative who thinks that a joint yard sale between WENA and the Reiche PTO can work. The scheduled date is October 18th. Volunteers will be needed the night before. No clothes or electronics will be accepted.
Liz Parsons gave an update on a recent meeting Mercy Hospital had conducted regarding the future of the State Street property and the Hospital’s planned moved to the Fore River campus. The Hospital intends to relocate completely by 2018 which will be the centenary of the institution. They have established a sub-committee of staff and board members to help figure out ways of repurposing the State Street property which they hope to have sold before the relocation. The Hospital staff intends to hold other community meetings; anyone interested in being added to the email list for these meetings should contact Liz. A brief period of discussion followed this report.
Ian Jacob reported that he, Jeanne Swanton, and Becky Tipper attended a recent HCDC meeting to press for improvements to the crosswalks near Reiche. The initial request for this work was reduced by City officials and ultimately had been taken out of the proposed budget altogether. Thanks to WENA representation at the meeting, $40,000 was reinstated. Funding should become available July 1 with the work to be completed by the end of 2016. A brief period of discussion followed this report.
Waynflete will host its annual 5K run on Saturday, 16 May. There will be street closures. More information is available on Waynflete’s website.
Tony Zeli gave the group an update on the RFP process for the parking lot next to Fresh Approach. He had just attended the open meeting held there. Todd Alexander, who made a presentation to WENA in April about his plans for developing Joy Street, is the only person bidding so far. Big issues raised at the open meeting concerned parking accessibility and safety.
Sarah Colton reported on behalf of the Department.
- She noted that longstanding problems with the building at 133-135 Emery Street appear to be working towards resolution. The property owner has a new attorney and property manager. The owner has signed an important agreement with the City about the type of tenants who will live there.
- She also asked that neighbors keep an eye on the Reiche gazebo area. There have been some complaints about young people being there with drug paraphernalia. Anyone seeing anything suspicious should call the police.
- A family fun day will take place on June 6th and volunteers are needed. See Jeanne or Sarah if interested. The Reiche Road race will take place on May 22nd.
- A question was raised about copper thefts on Danforth and Spring. Sarah responded that she would find out if anyone had been arrested in these cases.
- Jen Defillip reported people having slept in her backyard recently, leaving their empties on her property. Sarah said she would write up this matter and talk with the night shift about patrolling the area.
- Peter Hall inquired about an incident on Carleton Street in which crime scene tape was placed out. Sarah said she would find out and get back to him.
- Dick Stevens noted that street parking rules have changed with Wednesday parameters being unclear. There was some discussion about how the City is informing public on this matter.
Ian updated the group on a meeting amongst himself, Liz, Leana, and Jen as members of the WENA Membership & Outreach Committee. The Committee intends to coordinate outreach on a weekend, canvassing the borders of the West End, talking with businesses and inviting their participation in the Association. He invited WENA members to consider joining in this effort.
Jeanne noted that the neighborhood clean-up effort had about 15 people attend and go to Aurora Provisions for refreshments afterwards.
The group welcomed Spencer Thibodeau, who was attending a WENA meeting for the first time.
Peter Hall reported receiving a notice that at 17 Carleton Street, Avesta is planning a 37 unit apartment building. He was concerned about the style of the proposed building and the types of materials being used. There was also some concern raised by others about the disappearance of the parking lot on this property in favor of the new building.
The final meeting of the State and High Streets two-way conversion committee will take place at Rines Auditorium, Portland Public Library on June 6th. The public can attend this session but not comment. Ian and Rosanne are members of the committee and he observed that the majority favors returning it to two-way even though, if this were to happen, it would probably be years in the future. Wanting to make sure he is representing WENA’s position accurately, Ian asked for a show of hands for those in favor and opposed to the project. The majority of the group voted in favor of the conversion. Ian then invited those who opposed to sum up thoughts and submit them to him prior to the final meeting.
Summer plans for WENA will be discussed at the June meeting.
A garden plot at Clark Street Community Garden has come available for WENA. It is 10 x 15 feet and will cost WENA $15 instead of the usual $50 annual fee. Ian, Clifford, Jeanne, Rosanne, and Liz volunteered to help with this effort. There was some discussion as to what should be grown there and for what cause. The current thinking is to donate any produce raised to a place such as 100 State Street.
Peter and Clifford conducted the raffle that netted $16 for WENA.
The meeting adjourned at 8:10 PM.