Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Latest Edition of the West End NEWS is on the Street!

Housing Committee Rejects YWCA Proposal

The Portland City Council’s Housing Committee voted unanimously on January 9th to reject a request by the YWCA to exempt it from the City’s housing replacement ordinance, so that the Y can sell its property on Spring Street under more favorable terms and avoid bankruptcy. The ordinance would require the YWCA to replace 33 units of housing that were lost when the Y closed its doors.

The issue now goes back to the full City Council for a final vote. A number of speakers at the Council’s January 3rd meeting praised the Y’s long history of service to the community, but many said that that should not exempt it from complying with the replacement ordinance, which many see as crucial in maintaining and growing affordable housing in the city.

The Portland Museum of Art has expressed an interest in purchasing the YWCA property, which abuts its own property, but has said that the housing replacement requirement would essentially be a $1 million penalty which would cause them to reduce their offer and would take museum out of running for the property.
WENA Proposal Runs into Brick Wall

A proposal by the West End Neighborhood Association to get federal funding for the renovation of the Reiche Community Center ran into a snag at the City Manager’s Policy Advisory Committee meeting on December 15th.

Because the WENA proposal would fund consulting and planning fees and engineering studies for the project, it is not considered an infrastructure project, and would be competing for the same funds used to pay the City planning staff that administers the funding.

Another complication in the proposal is the fact that the West End Neighborhood Association does not own the property. It is owned by the City, but different aspects of its maintenance, user policies, and financial responsibilities are divided among different City agencies such as the school department and the parks department. The State of Maine could also be a stakeholder in the development of the property, further complicating the process.

Among the improvements that some WENA members would like to see made are an upgrade of the swimming pool and removal of the ramps which lead to the public library branch.

Some federal money has already been earmarked to put in a new soccer field in Phase 3 of a plan that included the new school playground and redesign of the parking area.


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