Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Councilors Split on Artists Studios Plan

Roxanne Quimby's plan to renovate 660 Congress St. into artist studios will eliminate seven apartment units. Under City law that requires either replacing those housing units, or a payment of $57,850 per unit. Quimby's request for exemption from that as a "Project of Special Merit," was before the Housing Committee last night. Councilor Donoghue voted against it, while Councilors Marshall and Coyne voted in favor.
"The need for housing in the city, especially affordable housing, should not be shortchanged, said Dee Clarke, an advocate with Homeless Voices for Justice. 'I think the vision is awesome,' she said, 'but to give it special treatment, to not put money in housing replacement, is not fair.'

Councilor Kevin Donoghue voted against the exemption, saying the goal of preserving the city's housing stock is too important to waive, even for a desirable project.

Committee Chairman David Marshall said it is difficult to choose between important community goals like housing and the arts. 'I know many artists that struggled to find housing that is affordable and artists that are homeless,' he said. But he said he feels the project meets the community benefit required for the exemption."

“Project of Special Merit” -  A project may not be designed as a project of special merit unless the council determines that:

a. The project is consistent with the comprehensive plan of the City of Portland.

b. The project will provide significant public and civic benefits, including without limitation, social or other benefits which are significant to the community, and particularly desirable at the location proposed; and

c. Notice of the hearing before the Council shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the City of Portland not less than seven (7) days prior to final action and notice shall also be sent to all persons who would receive notice in the case of an appeal for a variance.