Cumberland council to weigh sewer rate hike, contract zone for affordable housing

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council will discuss a recommended sewer user fee increase next Monday, July 9, and hold another public hearing on a contract zone agreement for proposed affordable housing projects on Route 100.

Town Manager Bill Shane is recommending a 3 percent sewer user fee increase per year for the next three years. The current average user fee of $62 a month would increase to $64 starting Aug. 1 if the Town Council approves the increase; it would be the first increase in two years.

Public sewer is funded by the users and not from taxes; an increase in those rates is triggered when expenses related to the sewer system become greater than the revenues.

The Town Council will also discuss whether to send contract zone agreements for two affordable housing projects to the Planning Board. The panel had a public hearing on the proposed West Cumberland developments last month, hearing some concerns and also expressing its own mixed views on the matter.

Telos Capital of Portland and Walnut Hill Investments of North Yarmouth want to build 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 require 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 what the developers seek.

Although 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 – the project failed to come to fruition.

Shane has said that despite the town’s attempts to attract different businesses to that 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.

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.

Monday’s meeting will take place at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

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.