South Portland City Council approves zoning for 2nd congregate home on E St.

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SOUTH PORTLAND — City councilors Wednesday unanimously adopted a zoning change to allow a second E Street residence for adults with developmental disabilities.

Ten residents will live at the 14 E. St. home in Knightville. It will be next door to 20 E St., which was the first privately funded home for intellectually disabled adults in the state.

In other business, South Portland City councilors passed the first reading of a new zoning ordinance that changes the size of of nonconforming residential lots, allowing residents to build on smaller lots. The city council will vote on the issue at their next city council meeting on Feb. 6.

Massachusetts-based Specialized Housing, which has 11 other congregate homes for disabled adults in New England, developed and will operate both residential homes on E Street.

Included in the new building will be two apartments to house staff, who will not be paid, but will receive free room and board, said Peter Roth, Specialized Housing developer.

Lisa Page of Portland, a proponent of the project, said she is “thrilled and relieved by the decision,” which will allow her 53-year-old brother to move into the new home. Her brother lives out of state with their 77-year-old mother.

“Two houses together creates a larger community,” Page said. She said the shared land between the two residences will allow opportunities to socialize, such as hosting barbecues.

Councilor Claude Morgan said it is an “excellent project.”

“I have have not heard anything negative from my constituents,” Morgan said.

According to Roth, Specialized Housing has a $2 million working budget for the property. The money will come from a bank loan and from the families who buy into the property.

Mary Chris Semrow, of Falmouth, a consultant to families served by Specialized Housing, said four families have already signed on and five more families are being assessed.

The four residents who are on board range in age from 19 to 53 and now live at home with family members. Semrow, who helped bring both E Street projects to the city, has a daughter who has lived at 20 E St. since it opened in May 2010.

Roth said it is hoped construction will be underway by late April, and the project is expected to take eight to nine months to complete.

He said the Knightville community is a great location; it’s a very walkable and livable neighborhood suited to the project’s residents, who usually walk and take public transportation.

Semrow said families buy a unit, which includes a bedroom and shared use of common areas in the house, at a projected cost of $175,000 to $205,000. Families also pay an assessment fee, which Semrow estimates will be approximately $2,100 a month that includes living expenses and staffing services.

The home will be a place where residents can “achieve greater independence and be supported by caring staff,” according to Specialized Housing’s website.

Jay Geller, of Falmouth, has a 22-year-old daughter who lives at home, but will be moving into 14 E St. Keller said he is thrilled, and his daughter will be excited. He said his daughter aged out of school and is “not really in a position to go to college” like some of her friends.

Geller said his daughter “is lonely and isolated. She is excited to have a peer group to ease the isolation that young adults with disabilities sometimes have.” He said she’ll have others to live with, cook with and go to Sea Dogs games with.

Mayor Patti Smith said she’s proud of South Portland for serving a population that “finds it difficult to fit into a community.”

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow Melanie on Twitter @MelanieSochan.

South Portland city councilors on Jan. 18 unanimously adopted a zoning change to allow Specialized Housing to renovate and add to 14 E St., left, which will become a residence for adults with developmental and related disabilities.

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