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Abutters reject 'opponent' label as Planning Board mulls housing site sketch

By Kendra Caruso | Sep 22, 2020
Source: City of Belfast. The Developers Collaborative sketch plan submitted Sept. 1 to Belfast Planning Board.

Belfast — Belfast Planning Board considered a site plan sketch Sept. 16 for a low-income housing project proposed by Developers Collaborative for the former Public Works site on Congress Street. Abutters to the site expressed concerns about the project, but do not want to be dismissed as "opponents" by the city.

Scot and Paula Cannon, who live adjacent to the project site, said they think it is a good idea and acknowledge the need for affordable housing. They voiced concerns about the project at the city’s July public listening session, but feel they have been labeled as opponents.

They said they feel they have been lumped in with anybody who has ever opposed anything in the city. But all they want is for their concerns to be considered so the project looks like it belongs in the neighborhood, instead of looking like five army barracks.

“We just want to make sure it’s done well — it’s done as a project of pride for us and for the people that live there,” Scot said.

He added that he and other neighboring property owners are concerned that the proposed 48 units will dramatically increase traffic in the area. “It’s a lot of people to all of a sudden be across from you," he said.

A smaller project of 30 to 35 units would be better-suited for the location, with consideration for building materials and apartment layout so it resembles area homes, he said. He wants the project to be something the neighborhood and tenants can be proud of.

The sketch plan depicts three large lawn sections surrounded by 71 to 75 parking spaces with five large apartment buildings on the perimeter of the property. But Codes and Planning project planner Wayne Marshall said the plan submitted Sept. 1 is probably subject to changes as the Planning Board considers the application. Developers Collaborative is proposing 36 income-restricted units and 12 market-value apartments.

Planning Board members discussed parking, layout and vegetation buffering around wetland areas and Congress Street more than any other topic, Marshall said. He reminded the board and the public that, under the city’s code, the 4.3-acre lot could hold nearly double the number of housing units being proposed. The code does not limit how many bedrooms are allowed in each unit.

But Scot still thinks the number of units proposed is too dense for the neighborhood and the city is reminding the public about the full number of units allowed by the code to soften neighbors' concerns.

Paula said she is curious to know why the parking isn’t behind the buildings. She does not want it to be something that gets a lot of “finger-pointing. ... We would like to have a neighborhood. I don’t like the us and them categories,” she said.

They couple hope the project is not rushed so details like siding materials, window panes and other considerations do not get overlooked.

Scot said the way the city handles concerns over this project could have a negative or positive effect on future housing projects. If it does not go well, residents in other neighborhoods might be more hesitant to embrace similar projects.

“The better this goes, the better it will be going forward in other neighborhoods,” he said.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Leslie Lavender | Sep 24, 2020 07:44

No, Kitchen, I think the Cannons have some legit concerns. The appearance of the buildings should blend with the surrounding neighborhood. And, the amount of traffic will increase and should be acknowledged by the planning board. The project should move forward and the concerns of the neighbors should be considered thoughtfully.



Posted by: from the kitchen | Sep 23, 2020 05:13

Nimbys. No other word for it.



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