FREEPORT — The Town Council Tuesday night approved the sale of property on West Street to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland.
Councilor Jim Hendricks, chairman of the Municipal Facilities Committee, said at the Dec. 20 council meeting that Habitat’s plan is to build eight units in four duplex-style structures. Each unit will be owned by a low-income family.
The development behind the Freeport Farms Condominiums will require the construction of a private road, water, sewer and electricity access.
Stephen Bolton, Habitat’s executive director, said the organization agreed to pay $104,000 in back taxes and expenses due to the town from three homes under construction on South Street, but asked the council to link the two projects and defer the $104,000 until the West Street duplexes start to sell.
Bolton said Habitat will pay $5,000 for each unit approved on West Street – $40,000 for eight units – and would owe Freeport $144,000 to be paid upon the sale of each of the four duplexes at a rate of $36,000 per duplex.
According to Town Planner Donna Larson, the land is “grossly over-assessed at $165,400.”
With an estimated appraised value of $210,000 for each unit, the housing will allow the town to convert non-tax generating property into about $2.3 million in tax-producing property.
Bolton said Habitat will apply for grants and hold fundraising events to generate funding, and Larson said Freeport will apply for a Community Development Block Grant to help with the infrastructure costs.
She said the council will be asked to endorse the block grant no later than its second meeting in January. The application is due in February, decisions are expected in April and the funds would be available by October 2012.
Bolton said the project on West Street is expected to take several years, but told councilors the organization would not leave a development unfinished.
“We are trying to supply the tax base and affordable housing in towns,” he said.
In other business, the council received a petition aiming to protect the residential land west of the village center from a zoning change. Residents asked the council to adhere to Town Charter language that specifically bans commercial development of public open space and residential land west of the village center.
The ban would make a proposal to develop an indoor-outdoor field complex on town-owned land near Hedgehog Mountain difficult for Seacoast United Maine, a nonprofit soccer club based in Topsham.
The council will hold a workshop with Seacoast United on Jan. 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Town Hall.
The council also made a statement regarding the anonymous publication, “A View from the Crow’s Nest,” a parody that for nearly 25 years has mocked town politics, town officials, staff and council members. A recent edition caused several residents to ask the council to take action against the publication and not allow it on town-owned property.
Chairman Jim Cassida read a letter from the state attorney general’s office that said the publication, while inappropriate, is protected by the anonymous publisher’s right to free speech. Cassida said the council also strongly believes that the expression of the publication is “inappropriate, hateful and harmful to the process of civil public discourse.”
“To this council’s knowledge, no elected official in the town of Freeport, or any member of town staff has knowingly taken part in the production of this publication,” Cassida said. “The council urges the author or authors to exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner that is respectful of individuals and which does not imply violence inspired by hatred or slanderous accusations.”
He said the town is determining whether the publication can be banned from Town Hall, and the matter will be discussed at a future council meeting.