In a phone meeting between Saco-based developer Bernie Saulnier and Jay Norris, president of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization on Tuesday, Saulnier stated that his proposed development for 155 Sheridan St. would be reworked to assuage concerns over the loss of the view from Portland’s historic Fort Sumner Park. That according to Norris who spoke with The Observer this morning.
Norris couldn’t elaborate publicly on all details of the call, but said Saulnier was clear that plans for the development as reviewed by the MHNO and some within Portland city government would be revised in the coming weeks. Saulnier also reiterated his intent to review the updated plan with the Organization’s board members prior to filing an official project application with the City.
“In my experience, development projects like this one can be fluid and unpredictable until final approval,” Norris cautioned. “But Bernie has been proactive and seemingly transparent with us on working out a compromise. I’m taking him at his word until there’s reason not to.”
Norris said that while Saulnier expects a two-week timeframe for a follow-up meeting, the project’s chief Engineer, Acorn Engineering’s Will Savage says a period of three to four weeks might be more realistic to rework the plan prior to presentation.
When the updated plan is ready, Saulnier’s team has agreed to meet once again in a non-public forum with the same participants as that of an August 23 meeting. In that meeting, Saulnier and his team sat down with Norris, members of the MHNO board of directors, the city’s park and development heads along with Mayor Ethan Strimling and City Councilor Belinda Ray.
During the August 23rd meeting, both Strimling and Ray expressed opposition to any development interfering with park-goers’ view of the Portland peninsula, Back Cove or Mt. Washington. At that time, Strimling went on to say the plan as presented would almost surely fail due to public opposition. Strimling said he would personally oppose the current plan in order to protect the park’s views, both for Portland residents and for the thousands of out-of-town visitors the park attracts each year.
“There’s a change in the works on the plan and I’m excited about what that could mean, both for compromise and for avoiding another development controversy that rips the city apart.” Norris said. “We’re standing with our park and our city’s need to maintain it for generations to come, and we’re grateful for (Saulnier’s) work with us and his willingness to go back to the drawing board.”