Bath council may donate land for affordable housing project

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BATH — The City Council on Wednesday unanimously waived an appraisal for a half-acre Tarbox Street property.

The council will now decide whether to donate the land for an affordable housing project.

The panel also placed a wastewater improvements bond referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Bath Housing, which wants to build a 10-unit, approximately 7,900-square-foot apartment building on nearly two acres it owns on Tarbox Street, had asked the city to gift an adjacent 0.58-acre parcel. The added land would help provide access options to the property, Bath Housing Executive Director Deb Keller said in an email Tuesday.

The project’s total development cost is expected to be $1.65 million, Keller said. Of that, $500,000 would come from a housing assistance grant through the state Community Development Block Grant program, which the council unanimously accepted in June.

Bath Housing also plans to submit an application to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston’s Affordable Housing program, Keller said, for a $500,000 grant toward construction and a low-interest loan.

The funding is necessary to make the housing affordable to those who earn less than 80 percent of area median income, she said, adding that there is “an acute need for additional affordable apartments in our community.”

City Manager Bill Giroux said at Wednesday’s meeting that it had been common practice for the city to donate “odd parcels” to Bath Housing for development. He said the council could decide not to spend money on an appraisal for this particular parcel, which would cost thousands of dollars.

“It’s not the most valuable property in the world,” he said.

Of the 10 one-bedroom apartments, six would be for those earning less than 50 percent of the area median income, and the rest would go to those earning less than 80 percent.

All units are to be handicapped-accessible, and the building will include an elevator.

Bath Housing may be notified about the grant about December, and expects afterward to seek the required site plan and subdivision approvals from the city, Keller said. The organization also plans to hold a neighborhood meeting to review the project status.

Construction could begin early next summer.

Bath Iron Works donated the vacant parcel to Bath Housing in 1996. A prior CDBG application, filed in the mid-2000s, was unsuccessful.

Bond referendum

The council also unanimously approved sending a $9.8 million wastewater improvements bond to voters in November. The borrowing would fund infrastructure upgrades and improvements at the city’s wastewater treatment plant and some of pump stations, as well as infrastructure under some roads, Giroux said.

“We’re trying to get … somewhat of a master plan of what the next 10-15 years are going to be like for the city,” he said. “These aren’t systems where you can wait until they break. You have to keep the system running.”

The last treatment plant upgrade occurred in 1997, according to Public Works Director Peter Owen. An overview of the city’s wastewater infrastructure was provided to the city early this year.

“We really don’t want to see equipment fail, because if a pump station breaks down … we’re looking really at being dead in the water, and in a whole world of stuff that we don’t want to be in,” he said. “So it’s really critical that we stay ahead of the curve, and replace equipment.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.