Residents balk at proposed expansion of Falmouth senior housing

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FALMOUTH — Residents of the Blackstone Apartments off Depot Road expressed concerns to the Planning Board Tuesday night over a plan to expand parking for a project that would double the number of units in the project.

Portland-based Avesta Housing, which manages Blackstone, wants to expand and renovate the housing for seniors. There are 20 units at Blackstone; Avesta has proposed an additional 19 units and also has a plan to renovate the existing units.

Avesta Development Officer Drew Wing said there are about 15 parking spots at Blackstone, or 0.75 spots per unit. The proposed plan at 21 Squidere Lane calls for 39 parking spaces.

Residents are worried the spaces will be too spread out and too far away from the apartments. Lack of adequate buffering and places for plowed snow in the winter are also concerns.

Avesta does not assign parking spaces at Blackstone, but James Richardson, a resident, said the tenants association does assign spaces. He said the fear is, if more spaces are added, the existing spaces will be eliminated.

“Visitor parking is (also) important; we don’t want to lose that either,” said Richardson, who added he is applying to have a live-in aide come to assist him at Blackstone.

Susan Zeamer, also a resident at Blackstone, said her concern is especially for those who would be moving into the new building. She also questioned where snow would be placed in the winter. Zeamer said if parking is farther away from the buildings, older residents or those with disabilities who need help will have a harder time getting to and from their homes.

“Parking is more crucial (here) than I’ve seen anywhere I’ve lived,” Zeamer said.

Because it was Avesta’s first time before the Planning Board for the project, no decisions were made. The plan has appeared before the Town Council several times; most recently the council approved amending the code of ordinances to support the expansion plan. When it appears before the Planning Board again, Avesta is expected to to have more specifics.

Wing said Avesta originally asked for a ratio of 0.7 spaces per unit, but after speaking with the council agreed to 39 units. He said if the additional parking alleviates concerns and provides overflow, “so be it.”

Wing also said, despite concerns expressed by residents, to his knowledge there is no parking problem at Blackstone. He said he has “never observed the lot full.”

Pat Carroll, of Carroll Associates Landscape Architects in Portland, said the existing units are spread out over five buildings, with four units in each of the single-story buildings. The buildings were built in the 1970s, and acquired by Avesta in 2013. Carroll said there is a small community room which will also be replaced.

The new building will have 19 units spread out over two stories in an L-shaped building. There would be 17 one-bedroom units and two with two bedrooms. All 39 units would be restricted to low-income elderly residents whose income is below 60 percent of the area median income.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Portland-based Avesta Housing is proposing an expansion project to create more affordable senior housing at Blackstone Apartments on Squidere Lane in Falmouth.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.