2 Falmouth projects propose affordable housing for seniors

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday night spent most of a 2 1/2-hour meeting discussing two proposals for affordable senior housing.

Representatives from the OceanView retirement community sought revisions to the ordinance regulating the Plummer school complex on Lunt Road. OceanView purchased the parcel in 2012, and is working to turn the school in to 34 units of senior housing.

Portland-based Avesta Housing, meanwhile, presented a renovation and expansion plan for the Blackstone Apartments off Depot Road.

At previous council meetings, OceanView indicated it intends to keep an estimated 16 of the 34 units affordable for 30 years for residents earning no more than 120 percent of the area median income. The 2015 income levels in Falmouth for two people at 120 percent AMI is just over $74,000.

The council recently conveyed town-owned land to OceanView to complete this project.

However, during the process, OceanView determined revisions were needed for the Elementary School Redevelopment District.

The first is a “simple housekeeping matter” of adding appropriate dates for approving the district, according to a letter to the council from OceanView Development Director Matt Teare.

The second is clarification of permissible uses in the ESRD, by adding the phrase “elderly housing” to both the ESRD and the section that lists definitions in the zoning ordinance.

The third is elimination of the current minimum dwelling unit size of 600 square feet, since some units would be smaller to increase affordability.

And the final revision would clarify that a cap on new buildings would not apply within the ESRD, because it could limit OceanView’s ability to finance, build and/or rent the units.

Chris Wasileski, project manager for OceanView, said the revisions need to be addressed in order to keep the project going. The demolition phase has already been completed, and OceanView’s goal is to have the project done by spring 2017.

The council set a public hearing date of April 11 to discuss the proposed revisions.

Avesta Housing is seeking a zoning amendment to the nonprofit organization allow it to rehabilitate and expand affordable senior housing at 21 Squidere Lane.

Development Officer Drew Wing said the organization has 20 units of affordable housing for seniors 62 and older at the Blackstone Apartments in need of rehabilitation. Avesta acquired the building, which was built in the 1970s, in 2013. The organization is also seeking to build 19 new units for residents 55 and older.

“We know what a tremendous need there is for safe, affordable housing,” Wing said.

The majority of units in both buildings will be one-bedroom, though a few two-bedroom units will be available. Wing said the one-bedrooms are typically 550 square feet, and the two-bedroom units are 800 square feet.

Wing said the existing units need extensive repairs, but Avesta tries to allow occupants to remain in their units during the work. Other arrangements could be made if need be however. The units will be restricted to two seniors at or below 60 percent of the area median income.

Wing said Avesta is seeking to create a master development plan with help from town staff, and hope to return to the council by late March or early April. Town Manager Nathan Poore indicated that would be a very quick turnaround to develop a plan, and said town staff would need a lot of help from the applicant to make that work. 

In order to maintain financing, Avesta hopes begin construction by October and have the projected completed by October 2017. The project is being financed from three separate awards.

Councilors generally seemed favorable to the plan, even with the proposal of drafting a master development plan. Councilor Caleb Hemphill said he thought Avesta’s plan is a good one.

“Avesta has thought hard about how to make this work,” he said.

Council Vice Chairman Russell Anderson said he is enthusiastic about Avesta renovating the existing units, and said he didn’t think the council “should shy away from” developing a master plan if that’s what it takes.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Portland-based Avesta Housing wants to create more affordable senior housing at Blackstone Apartments on Squidere Lane in Falmouth, and is creating a master development plan with help from town staffers.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.