The Damariscotta Planning Board reviewed an updated application for a multi-family affordable senior living development during their meeting on Tuesday, April 11. Board members requested several additional changes but agreed that the project is nearing approval. A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, May 1.
According to the project application, filed by Portland-based DC Ledgewood LLC in partnership with Midcoast Maine Community Action, the development has the potential to increase in the availability of affordable high-quality senior housing as well as create additional property tax revenue for the town.
Relying on Damariscotta’s $15.90 mil rate, the application estimates the development could generate between $100,000 and $150,000 per year in tax revenue.
Additionally, the availability of senior housing will provide the opportunity for older homeowners to stay in their communities while opening up housing stock to younger people and families. The project is not expected to impact local housing and land values.
The proposed two-story building at 207 Ledgewood Court Drive will contain 32 affordable living units for seniors. The project is an expansion of the existing 24-unit Ledgewood Court apartment complex.
The proposal requests the 10.54-acre parcel that contains both the existing and the proposed apartment complexes be subdivided into two lots with two separate owners.
A 6.59-acre lot will house the new two-story building of approximately 12,820 square feet, designed by Winton Scott Architects, of Portland. Each floor will contain 16-one bedroom units ranging in size from 578-635 square feet. DC Ledgewood LLC has a sales and purchase agreement with Midcoast Maine Community Action to take ownership of the subdivision.
Midcoast Maine Community Action is an agency that encourages economic sustainability and social equity within the Midcoast area,
The second parcel of 3.95 acres will contain the existing one-story complex built in 2002-2003 which consists of four separate buildings, each with six units. That lot will continue to be owned by Midcoast Maine Community Action.
DC Ledgewood will manage both complexes.
Meg Robinson, a project manager for Portland-based Developer’s Collaborative, presented an overview of the project to the planning board.
“We believe this site is ideal for a senior housing development,” Robinson said. “It is zoned in your rural district. It lies within your designated village expansion growth area in which senior housing is a permitted use. It’s a three minute drive to Walgreens, your local library, and a Hannaford.”
Robinson said the project “addresses a demonstrated need. It is responsive to Damariscotta’s comprehensive plan … to increase the diversity of housing in the area and in particular to allow retirees to age in place.”
Robinson said affordable housing requirements ensure rent be no more than 30% of a tenant’s income, based on the median income for the area. Using data from 2022, the units would rent for $906 per month if they were available today, although by the time the unit opens in 2025 that number will likely see an increase, Robinson said.
Board member Jennifer Begin questioned whether $906 per month is affordable and referenced other complexes in the area that determine rent based on actual income as opposed to a median figure.
Stephen Bushey, of Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers in South Portland, spoke to the specifics of the building plans, which include a community room and outdoor patio downstairs, and a lounge area and back deck on the upper floor.
The plans also include four Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant units, on-site laundry facilities, a community garden with raised beds, and 33 parking spaces.
Bushey said the development site is well served by existing public infrastructure and the building will be buffered from neighboring properties and from the road by existing tree growth.
By retaining a substantial portion of the wooded area and by minimizing any intrusion into wetlands, the developers plan to offset any potential impact on habitat. Stormwater runoff will be collected and released through a soil filter and a bio-retention filter north of the proposed building.
According to Bushey, as a senior living complex the development is unlikely to burden the local school system or to unduly affect traffic flow, although it may have some impact on emergency services. Abutting properties are also unlikely to be disturbed by light pollution or any increase in noise levels.
Planning board members raised a number of concerns, including fire truck access to the back of the building as a result of the paved patio area, a desire for increased sheltered or shaded outdoor space, and an ordinance requirement that parking lots maintain a 30-foot setback from abutting properties.
Developers had requested a waiver for the parking lot setback, but board member Neil Genthner Jr. expressed concern that abutters “are under the impression that there’s a 30-foot setback from their property line that we are going to uphold for them … We’ve run into the setback thing before and it’s come back to bite us,” he said.
Board Chair Jonathon Eaton suggested shifting the location of the building on the lot to bring the project into compliance with the setback requirement. After discussion, Bushey indicated moving the location of the parking lot away from the abutting property line might be the best solution.
Additional changes may include lengthening and narrowing the patio area for improved access by emergency vehicles, adding a shade feature to the patio, and relocating the trash collection area to ensure that it meets ordinance requirements that it be a minimum of 50 feet from any property line.
Robinson said the developers hope to receive site plan approval in advance of the reopening of the highly competitive 4% low income housing tax credit program anticipated this summer.
Bushey said he will get revised documents to Interim Town Planner Michael next week. The plans must also be reviewed by Damariscotta Fire Chief John Roberts in advance of the public hearing.
Martone said the board could issue conditional approval for the project at its next meeting, as long as all necessary documentation is submitted prior to the issuance of the construction permit.
Construction of the project may generate up to 100 jobs, according to the developers, although it is not anticipated to result in significant additional permanent employment opportunities in the area. However, “the opportunities afforded by an increase in affordable housing are broad and positively impactful to a regional economy,” according to the application documents.
“I think in general there’s a lot of public support for this project,” Begin said.
If approved construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2024 with completion by fall of 2025. The projected cost of the project is approximately $8-10 million.
The next meeting of the Damariscotta Planning Board is at 6 p.m. Monday, May 1 at the Damariscotta town office.