Affordable housing, environmental concerns for the proposed development
BIDDEFORD – Providing affordable housing and protecting the environment were the concerns of members of the Biddeford Planning Council and members of the public during a workshop on a proposed new area requested by developers.
A mixed-use area, which would allow smaller lot sizes for more residences and commercial space, in an area that currently only allows rural farms and mobile homes, is sought after by those proposing development for include 566 residences and commercial space on 330 acres in West Biddeford along South Street.
The mixed-use area of the village, requested by South Street Village LLC, calls for reduced lot sizes, which would allow for more than 560 units instead of the 490 currently allowed, reduced setbacks, maximum building footprint of 30,000 square feet, a maximum building height of 45 feet and a solar field of 20 acres. The development proposal includes a mix of multi-family dwellings, duplexes and single-family units on land commonly referred to as the former Claire property.
The area sits adjacent to approximately 400 acres of open space, with 35 acres owned by a land trust and the remainder owned by the City of Biddeford and the Maine Water Company.
On Wednesday August 19, town planner Greg Tansley outlined the process for creating the area, which is expected to go to city council – which he says would take place in November – whose members would have the final say.
Council members should come up with guiding principles for what the zone would do and include, there should be a period of data collection, a series of public meetings and hearings, and other means of obtaining advice from the public. If the council approves the zone, there should be a period of monitoring and evaluation to see if the zone’s goals have been met, Tansley said.
He noted that construction of the South Street Village proposal is expected to take five to 15 years. A master plan, similar to the one created for the University of New England, should be developed that would include an overview of what would be built, but each new part would still have to go through the approval process. of the site plan of the Planning Council, he said.
Creating housing, including affordable housing, is one of the area’s key functions, Tansley said. “Tthat there is some kind of equity and diversity and that different people and looking at how they can all be housed in this area in a way … is extremely important,“ he said.
Planning and Development Director Mathew Eddy said that affordable housing – or housing at “attainable” prices, as Richard “Chico” Potvin, one of the developers called it – housing would be something that people earn. 80 percent of the region’s median income could pay.
Several Planning Council members said they strongly believe in the need to ensure affordable housing as part of the plan.
“I would like wording in an outcome document sent to council… that would not just encourage affordable housing… bbut would mandate it, ”said Michael Cantara, member of the planning council. The language should say “you want to do this, you have to provide affordable housing. I wouldn’t want a construction project in this area not to include affordable housinging. I think it’s too much important.Besides, he said, he wants to make sure that there is protectionn of Thatcher Creek. Cantara said he wanted the language to address both of his concerns in early September.
During a July 15 workshop on the area, Cantara did not seem keen on developing west Biddeford: “I’m not sure what the town of Biddeford is gaining by diverting attention and population density from its area. historic city center, ”he said. “There may be answers to that. “
Resident Richard Rhames has spoken out against the area, likening it to a recipe for sprawl.
He said the proposed area and the development of South Street Village would be located on “the llargest block of untouched wilderness in the city of Biddeford which spans Arundel. This seems for me, it’s as the manual definition of spreading.
He suggested carrying out an economic impact study on the financial impact of the proposed development on the city.
” This seems to be totally development friendly, this whole process seems to be ‘tell us what you want’, said Rhames. “… But what is alarming about this is that this is seen as a blueprint for building the rest of Biddeford. And mostly as part of this zoom in, the idea that the public really has the chance to kind Ito intervene in this seems quite limited and disturbing.
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