Cape Elizabeth City Council approves zoning changes for controversial affordable housing project


Cape Elizabeth City Council has approved zoning changes that would allow a controversial affordable housing project to be built next to historic Town Hall and the new Village Green.

Council voted 5-2 on Wednesday for the zoning changes needed for the construction of Dunham Court, the first affordable housing project to go to municipal authorities in 50 years.

Councilors Valerie Deveraux and Caitlin Jordan voted no.

The $ 13.5 million project has yet to be approved by the Planning Council and has yet to complete its financing plan, including a tax increase financing deal with the city that would give the developer relief. property tax of $ 795,000 over 15 years. The board postponed discussion of the TIF agreement until November.

The Szanton Co. of Portland wants to build the 46-unit project just off Ocean House Road (Route 77). The four-story building would include 35 one-bedroom apartments, eight two-bedroom apartments and three three-bedroom apartments. The project is touted as housing for workers, empty nesters and others who could not otherwise afford to live in this affluent seaside town.

Renters in Cape Elizabeth need a median annual income of $ 92,000 to rent a two-bedroom apartment at the median price of about $ 2,300 per month including utilities, according to the Maine State Housing Authority. Prospective homeowners need an annual family income of $ 174,000 to buy a home at the median price of $ 625,000.

Dunham Court supporters claim the town center is exactly where an affordable housing project should be built, within walking distance of the local supermarket, pharmacy, public schools, community center, police, from the fire station and the Thomas Memorial library. Opponents don’t like the location, size or funding of the project, and they have threatened to collect signatures for a municipal referendum in order to block it.

With the zoning changes, Dunham Court could be built 10 feet higher than the 35-foot height limit in the downtown area. Other zoning changes halved the land area needed per unit, more than doubled the building’s authorized footprint, and eliminated the requirement for commercial space on the first floor.

Dunham Court’s financing would include $ 9.6 million borrowed through MaineHousing and $ 3.6 million in equity raised through the sale of federal low-rental housing tax credits. Under a 15-year TIF agreement for the 46 units, the city would return 75% of the estimated $ 70,653 in new property tax revenue generated by the project, or about $ 52,990 per year. The Szanton Co. would use the tax refund to pay off Dunham Court’s debt.

If the project is approved, Dunham Court would be an energy efficient building with a fitness center, community hall for residents, free Wi-Fi, heating, hot water, parking, indoor bicycle storage and a laundromat.

Thirty-seven apartments would be reserved for households below 60% of the region’s median income, which is $ 42,000 for one person, $ 48,000 for two people and $ 54,000 for three people. Nine apartments would be rented at market rate. Subsidized rents, made possible thanks to government funding, would be $ 1,080 for one bedroom, $ 1,299 for two bedrooms and $ 1,495 for three bedrooms; market rents would be $ 1,495 for one bedroom and $ 1,695 for two bedrooms.

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