Petition in Cape Elizabeth could establish Affordable Housing Zone in Gull Crest
The Cape Elizabeth resident behind a successful campaign to reverse zoning allowing affordable housing in the city center has started a new petition, this one to create affordable housing in Gull Crest Fields.
Lawyer Cynthia Dill’s new “Plan B” petition calls for another referendum to create a “community housing” zone for low and moderate housing. She would like this zone to apply to 10 acres in the city-owned Gull Crest Recreation Area. If his petition is accepted, voters would be asked to change zoning ordinances to allow the new area.
The petition, however, has its critics, who question the feasibility of Dill’s vision for community housing in Gull Crest and fear that the petition is misleading and plays on residents’ emotions about affordable housing.
The petition Dill certified last November, which she now calls “Plan A,” got residents’ votes on zoning changes that were approved by city council. The alterations, which increased the maximum height and footprint of buildings in the town centre, would have enabled the construction of Dunham Court, a 49-unit affordable housing development. The developer eventually pulled the plans.
Among Dill’s arguments against Dunham Court were that it did not align with the city’s overall plan for the town center and that it was not suitable for families as it would mainly offer one-bedroom apartments room.
This zoning referendum will be on the ballot in November.
His new petition dated Wednesday has received 275 signatures. To force a referendum on “Plan B”, at least 870 of the city’s registered voters, or 10% of the total, must sign it, she said.
Some community members wondered if the signatories were misled.
There appears to be confusion about what exactly the petition does, said Kevin Justh, a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals who has more than 20 years of commercial real estate experience. After seeing the residents’ petition questions on Facebook, he created the website affordablecape.com.
“I think there was some misleading information that was put out there,” he said. “I thought it would be helpful to have as much of a factual platform as possible.”
In his website responses to what he says are 17 Frequently Asked Questions, Justh points out that the specified purpose of the petition is not to develop an affordable housing complex as there are no proposals for such. project. Instead, its aim is to “amend a single ordinance in the Cape Elizabeth Zoning Ordinance to define a new term, community housing”.
This definition is “housing on city-owned land reserved for low- or moderate-income residents, and to provide a unit density of 1 unit per 15,000 square feet of land as opposed to the current 1 unit per 66,000 square feet (or 80,000 square feet in subdivisions). In total, the site would support a maximum of 30 units,” Justh explains on the website.
Former city councilor Jamie Garvin is also concerned that residents who sign the petition may think they are endorsing a specific project. He attended a public forum on the petition last month with an “open mind”, he said, but “really didn’t come out with” anything new.
“There’s really no definite plan,” Garvin said in an interview with The Forecaster.
There are also questions about the feasibility of the housing project Dill is considering.
“I have serious doubts about its feasibility. I think there are significant limitations to that,” Justh said. “Hopefully the promoter would have come up with some sort of plan, as it’s called a blueprint, that they would have details of how it was physically or financially possible.”
Dill, in an interview with The Forecaster, said that if the proposed amendment is approved by voters in November, then she hopes the city council will present a proposal to developers to “explore the feasibility” of community housing in Gull Crest.
“It’s a small step,” she said of the petition. “Grassroots Democracy.”
Her “vision,” she said, is simply for the city to consider creating affordable housing on the site of Gull Crest, which served as the city’s “poor farm” and provided jobs and housing for needy from 1831 to 1937, according to the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society.
“The vision is that on what I understand to be 77 acres of land which was left to the City of Cape Elizabeth in 1825 by Thomas Jordan for the purpose of providing housing for those without means, that we explore the development of a community housing neighborhood, defined in the zoning ordinance, if Plan B passes, such as multiplex housing,” she said.
Garvin also fears that, alongside the referendum already scheduled for November, a second referendum question will create an “authorization structure”.
“Basically, people who don’t want to feel bad about voting against affordable housing overriding the council vote can then kind of balance that out and feel good that they’re voting for something,” he said. . “Even if the thing they’re voting for doesn’t have much potential.”
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