Brunswick adopts PACE, Willow Grove hydrants, parking lot lease

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BRUNSWICK — The town this week became the 62nd in Maine to adopt an ordinance that gives residents access to loans for home weatherization improvements.

Freeport, Topsham and Bath, have already signed on to the Property Assessed Clean Energy program, which is run by Efficiency Maine and allows Mainers to borrow money for energy efficiency improvements.

In order to access the loans, homeowners must first have a home energy audit. Then, they must qualify for a loan from Efficiency Maine. In order to qualify, a homeowner must have a debt-to-income ratio of less than 45 percent, have no outstanding liens, and not take out a loan worth more than the value of their house, among other requirements.

Finally, the owner can select a contractor to do the modifications, and apply for funding from Efficiency Maine.

The loans offer a 15-year repayment schedule, a 4.99 percent fixed interest rate, and can be transferred upon property sale.

Councilor Ben Tucker recommended the town pass the PACE ordinance to stay competitive with its neighbors.

“It will also be one more thing to attract people to move to Brunswick,” he said.

Only Councilor Gerald Favreau opposed the ordinance. He expressed concern that the town would get stuck with responsibility for the loans if Efficiency Maine cancels the program.

But Councilor Benet Pols pointed out that the text of the PACE ordinance makes clear that the town will not be responsible for those loans.

Willow Grove

Councilors also accepted the Willow Grove subdivision’s seven fire hydrants into the town system.

The hydrants had been owned and maintained by resident association fees.

Many Willow Grove residents showed up at the council meeting in support of the issue. They argued that the hydrants should be owned by the town because the water pipes beneath the development’s roads are part of the Brunswick Topsham Water District, unlike many other developments, where the water pipes are private.

“You will not be setting a precedent, Willow Grove is unique,” Thomas Greene said.

But councilors suggested that accepting the hydrants would pave the way for other private hydrants to become public, notably those serving housing at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, where water infrastructure is now owned by the Mid-Coast Regional Redevelopment Authority.

Town Manager Gary Brown said the staff recommendation was to reject the proposal.

“It’s bad public policy for us to be accepting responsibilities on roads that are not owned by the town of Brunswick,” he said.

Brown said there would be an “insignificant” increase to the town’s fire suppression fee if the town took responsibility for the hydrants. He said the bigger cost would be shoveling out the hydrants in the winter.

But many councilors said their opinions changed after hearing from Greene.

“I’m convinced this is a pretty unique situation,” Tucker said. “If another developer came in front of us with a different situation than Willow Grove, I would probably say no.”

Councilors decided to accept the hydrants, with Favreau and Councilor John Perreault opposed, but not before working language into the motion making clear that Willow Grove is unique and the council would not necessarily vote the same way on other developments.

Brooks parking lot

The council also approved a one- to two-year lease with the owner of Brooks Feed & Farm for an approximately 40-space parking lot at a cost of $5,000 a year.

The lot will be primarily for passengers of the Maine Eastern Railroad, which runs from Brunswick to Rockland during the summer. Brown said it is the town’s responsibility to provide parking for railroad passengers, not the responsibility of the developer of Maine Street Station, JHR Development.

A parking lot off Cedar Street, where passengers have historically parked, is no longer available because MDOT is using it as a staging area.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.