Mismanaged proposals and changes
This is by far the most controversial question — and the one that ruffles the most feathers among interested parties (certainly any issue that reduces grown men to slinging curse words outside city council chambers qualifies as feather-ruffling).
Olympia is joined by several outside observers, as well as a handful of city councilors, in charging that Ocean Properties violated the terms of the RFP by significantly amending its proposal after the February 22 submission deadline. Since that date, Ocean Properties has added to and altered its plan, switching the location of its hotel and adding solar panels, among other changes. East End councilor Kevin Donoghue has said he will consider only the proposal content that was submitted by the due date when making his decision.
To justify such alterations, Ocean Properties has the backing of the city council’s three-person Community Development Committee (CDC) in claiming that the original RFP was one that called for “concepts — that they were going to accept changes,” says Dennis Bailey, Ocean Properties’ spokesman. CDC chairman Cloutier has said that evolving proposals are preferable given the magnitude of the project. The committee voted 2-1 in July to recommend the Ocean Properties proposal to the full council.
“I think it’s clearly overstepping its authority,” counters UMaine law professor and former city councilor Orlando Delogu, of such claims. “Anything at this point anything that allows Ocean Properties’ late submissions and allows the rule changes of the CDC is probably impermissible.”
In fact, Delogu has created and disseminated a nine-page memo that offers a legal evaluation of the mismanaged proposal process. “Acceptance of the CDC recommendation would set dangerous precedents,” the memo reads. “Rules don’t matter, committees can override directives of the full council, political cronyism counts, unequal treatment in pursuit of public benefit is appropriate ... Moreover, acceptance of the CDC recommendation will almost certainly provoke protracted litigation (litigation having good chance of success) [from Olympia] or a public referendum on the question, or both.”
An Olympia spokesman declined to speculate about whether or not the company would pursue legal action depending on the council’s decision.
The council — if it does in fact make a decision on September 5th — will probably just vote to approve one or the other of these proposals. Even if council members go against the CDC recommendation of Ocean Properties (see “‘Home team’ wins round two,” by Lance Tapley, July 27, for a breakdown of which councilors are leaning in which direction), they will have endorsed a flawed process that will bring Portland nothing truly innovative.
It’s our pier
It’s disheartening to “choose” between two plans that are, at this point, slightly differing permutations of hotel, office, retail, and public space. Where’s the creativity — the towering medieval castle replica, the 100-foot Great White shark tank, and the underwater coffeehouse/bookstore/bar?
But more to the point, the Maine State Pier is ours. The city’s development considerations are just to lease the property to a developer, not turn over ownership. We, the people, should be involved in it, and not to have it as grassy passive-recreation space, or as customers at any of the fine fictionalized businesses the developers have projected will occupy their high-priced buildings.