Falmouth Habitat for Humanity proposal on hold until after municipal election

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FALMOUTH — Review of a proposed Habitat for Humanity project on town-owned land off Woods Road has been postponed until after next week’s municipal election.

The goal is to allow the newly seated council to decide whether it’s interested in allowing an affordable or workforce housing project on the 20-acre site, and whether it would like to invite other developers to also pitch ideas for the property.

The decision was reached by the council last week, when Town Manager Nathan Poore sought guidance on whether to move ahead with issuing a request for proposals for the town land as the council indicated it wanted to do last winter.

Godfrey Wood, executive director at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland, initially approached the council in late February with a plan to build an affordable community of about 25 single-family homes.

In February, Wood said the Habitat development would include energy-efficient homes with “modest ownership costs.” He said the definition of an affordable home is one where all the associated costs don’t exceed 30 percent of family income.

For Falmouth that would mean an individual income up to $46,000 annually, Wood said. He said the goal would be to give priority of ownership to those with ties to Falmouth, including town employees, local business owners and former residents.

In addition, Habitat would set aside about 13 acres of the property as permanently conserved open space, Wood said. The proposed Habitat homes would range between 1,300 and 1,400 square feet and most would include three bedrooms.

While generally supportive of the idea of bringing affordable housing to Falmouth, councilors at the May 30 meeting said it would be important not to make the town-owned property exclusively available to one party before first gauging the level of interest from other potential developers.

Following last week’s meeting Wood said, “We understand the process (and) it was sort of expected” that the council would hold off and wait to see if anyone else was interested in developing the town-owned land.

He said Habitat would definitely respond if and when the town decides to move forward with a request for proposals.

“I (think) our proposal speaks for itself and believe that the council and community will (eventually) agree,” Wood said. “There is a tremendous need for affordable home ownership in Falmouth and we can build a neighborhood that will meet that need and be a flagship project that the community can be proud of.”

At last week’s meeting, Councilor Karen Farber, who is not seeking re-election, said “I’m really hoping for more than one proposal.” But she also said she hopes the process doesn’t take too long, especially since Habitat has been before the council several times.

Poore said town staff has already determined that there’s “no particular value” to Falmouth in retaining the land behind the police station, even for open space.

Councilor Ned Kitchel, who is running for re-election June 12, said one key for him would be whether the developer would be willing to pay for the land or would be asking for it to be donated.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The town of Falmouth will not make any decisions until after next week’s election about a proposal for a new Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland project on municipal land off Woods Road.

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