Cumberland council sends contract zone for affordable housing to planners

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CUMBERLAND — The Planning Board could discuss contract zone agreements for two proposed affordable housing projects on Route 100 as early as next month.

The Town Council voted 4-1 Monday, with two abstentions, to send the matter to that board. The Planning Board is expected to send a recommendation on the agreements back to the Town Council.

If the council approves the agreements, the issue could return to the Planning Board for subdivision review in September or October, Town Manager Bill Shane has said.

Telos Capital of Portland and Walnut Hill Investments of North Yarmouth are proposing 17 single-family homes in separate projects on Route 100. The properties are between Mill and Wilson roads and in the Village Office Commercial 1 Zone.

The developers need a contract zone because VOC 1 does not allow single-family homes, although it does permit multiplexes, and the minimum lot size is 40,000 square feet, double that sought by the developers.

The Planning Board approved a business park about five years ago on the property eyed by Telos – a 10.4-acre parcel owned by Elvin Copp – but the project failed to materialize.

Shane has said that despite the town’s attempts to attract different businesses to the corridor, and while there has been more success with smaller businesses elsewhere on Route 100, the office commercial types the town has been seeking have not materialized.

Council Chairman Steve Moriarty, who voted against sending the agreements to the Planning Board, said Tuesday that he generally takes a conservative approach to contract zoning. He said contract zoning on the two properties “would have a significant, potentially adverse impact upon the area, which is not currently zoned for residential housing.”

He added that “if we had been asked, as a planning or a land use exercise, to take a look at the entire town of Cumberland and designate areas that were … suitable for high-density affordable housing, which I fully support in concept … I felt it was extraordinarily unlikely that any of us would have selected one or both of these properties.”

Councilor Ron Copp abstained from voting because he is related to Elvin Copp. Councilor George Turner also abstained, because he is the real estate broker for both properties, Shane said.

The homes would cost between $175,000 and $225,000; the median price of a home in Cumberland is $350,000. The lot sizes would be 20,000 square feet – less than half an acre – with 75 feet of frontage.

Shane said 20,000 square feet is the minimum lot size allowed under the state plumbing code, and that the lots would be served by public water, but not by a public sewer system.

On other business, the Town Council will hold a public hearing at its July 23 meeting on the first sewer rate increase in two years.

Shane is recommending a 3 percent increase per year for the next three years. The current average user fee of $62 a month would increase to $64 beginning Aug. 1 if the council approves the hike.

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

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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.