No compromise reached in meeting between Munjoy Hill residents and developer

No compromise was reached Tuesday evening at meeting between residents of Munjoy Hill, city officials and a developer who intends to build a new condominium complex in the neighborhood, which opponents say will block water views from nearby Fort Sumner Park.

At issue in the meeting was a preliminary proposal by Saulnier Development for a six-story building at 155 Sheridan St., a steeply graded lot immediately below the park. The Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization voiced opposition to the new building earlier this month after being shown plans for the building, which has not yet been formally proposed to the city. 

The neighborhood group organized yesterday’s meeting in hopes of persuading the Saco-based developer to shorten the condominium building so its top story does not rise above the lip of the park, and to avoid a political spat over water views like the one that embroiled a Fore Street development last year. But no agreement was reached at the voluntary meeting, according to two people who attended.

“We did ask [the developer] point blank if removal of the top story, the sixth story, was negotiable, but he didn’t really comment on that,” said Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization President Jay Norris.

Norris added that Munjoy Hill “desperately needs [more] housing” and he is generally welcoming of development, but the prospect of obscuring the views of the Back Cove from Sumner Park makes this project untenable as proposed.  

At the meeting, developer Bernie Saulnier agreed to consider possible revisions to the tentative plan over the next three weeks and continue the conversation around the project. But a real estate lawyer who is consulting with Saulnier on the project said that the staunchest opposition is grounded in city zoning regulation that is being “misinterpreted and misapplied.”

“The development team is eminently confident in its legal rights, and is using the site’s maximum potential as its conceptual starting point,” said attorney Patrick Venne.  

Among those who spoke against a building that might block the park views at Tuesday’s meeting was Mayor Ethan Strimling, who cited protections of natural beauty in city zoning regulations.

New buildings “will not have an undue adverse effect on the scenic or natural beauty of the area, aesthetics, historic sites … or rare and irreplaceable natural areas or any public rights for physical or visual access to the shoreline,” states city ordinance.