Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Maine story updates, Dec. 21 edition

Ocean Properties' Biddeford Drive: Ocean Properties, the developers behind the now infamous Maine State Pier proposals, have been busy on the political front in Biddeford, where they want to build a racino.

Pepperel Downs LLC, the Political Action Committee behind the successful local ballot initiative approving the project, received all of its funding from Ocean Properties [PDF]-- $171,432 altogether. OP senior vice president Thomas Varley is the PAC's treasurer. Governor John Baldacci's brother, Bob Baldacci, seems to be sitting this one out so far, but the PAC hired two of the governor's siblings -- Lisa Baldacci and Rosemary Baldacci -- as consultants (paying each $7500.)

After the vote, OP invited several Biddeford city councilors to a Dec. 11 cocktail party and presentation on the project at the Sable Oaks Marriott. (see image at left.) Presumably they felt this would be more persuasive than presenting the project at the city council chambers, where public business usually takes place.

Portland City Council dismantles working waterfront protections: As I wrote here in October, Portland officials have been contemplating loosening the zoning protections for fishing vessels and other working waterfront interests in the commercial part of the waterfront, the so-called Waterfront Central Zone, at the request of the pier owners, who include developers. (The area has been protected from tourism and condo development for a quarter century as the result of a ballot measure.)

Last night the city council voted to implement the changes and to reject amendments that would have better protected working waterfront uses on the piers themselves (while allowing most forms of development along the south side of Commercial Street itself.) The key votes were all 6-3, with Greens John Anton, Kevin Donoghue and David Marshall siding with the fishermen, Republican Cheryl Leeman and Democrats Nick Mavodones, Jill Duson, Ed Suslovic, John Coyne, and Dory Waxman backing the pier owners. For more on what this is likely to mean, watch out for my report in an upcoming issue of Down East.

Press Herald and the Elected Mayor: In case you missed it, Al Diamon broke the story that the Portland Press Herald appears to have given a very large in-kind contribution to one of the PACs pushing for Portland to have an elected mayor. The Portland Regional Chamber gave $46,507 in Press Herald ads to the Elect Our Mayor, yes on 1 PAC, a sum I suspect was greater than all other donations to the issue, pro or con, combined. The Press Herald didn't charge the Chamber for the ads. The Forecaster has posted the document online and has some more context.

[Update, 10:15 pm: Unless I missed it, neither the Press Herald nor the AP covered the city council meeting, despite the exceedingly consequential decision taken last night.]

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