AUGUSTA — The Planning Board approved an Augusta Housing Authority proposal, vehemently opposed by many of its Maple Street neighbors, to develop 29 apartments on a portion of the city-owned Kennebec Lockes property.

The proposal, made by the agency to provide affordable housing for working people, calls for 29 units in three buildings, a reduction of an earlier plan calling for 34 units in six buildings. Amanda Bartlett, the Augusta Housing Authority’s executive director, said it reduced the size of the project in response to neighbors’ concerns.

The board had tabled the proposal Dec. 19 after more than three hours of debate, and members asked for elevations and renderings so they could see better how the development would fit in the neighborhood.

Board members voted 7-1 Tuesday to approve it.

Neighbors and some board members said they thought Maple Street, the only road access planned for the development, is too narrow to be the only way in and out of the former mill site, although the city staff indicated access on the residential street is adequate and meets city ordinance standards.

According to a traffic study done for Stantec, a firm consulting with the housing authority on the project, the apartments would be expected to generate an additional 18 trips during the peak morning commuting hour and 34 trips during the peak evening commuting hour.

Neighbors of the site, which for many years was home to paper mills, spoke out against the proposal, saying it would bring unwelcome traffic and disruption to the otherwise quiet neighborhood around Maple Street.

Maple Street resident Roger Madore said the road is often down to only 16 feet wide in the winter because there is no place to put snow without pushing it up against homes, there is a steep hill on the road which can be slippery for traffic, and the neighborhood has changed in the three decades since millworkers used Maple Street to get to the former Statler mill site.

“Just because it can be built doesn’t mean it should be built,” Madore said.

The housing authority, which is independent of the city, would build the 29 apartments on about 3 acres, on the southern end and toward the rear, nonriver-side portion of the nearly mile-long, 20-acre property, which the city acquired from a mill owner in 2009 for nonpayment of taxes.

The mill closed in 2000. Before that, it had operated under various owners for 125 years.

The city has since renamed the site Kennebec Lockes, and officials hope to see it be redeveloped.

Neighbors and Planning Board members said they were concerned that the remainder of the Kennebec Lockes property could undergo commercial and residential development in the future, and that Maple Street could become the access point for that development as well.

Tom Connors, the only board member who voted against the proposal, didn’t comment Tuesday but said at the Dec. 19 meeting that it is the city’s responsibility to provide better access to the site for redevelopment.

Kevin Bunker, of Developers Collaborative, who is working with the authority on the project, said those concerns are legitimate; but he said city officials have told him they agree additional access to the site would need to be provided for large-scale redevelopment to take place on the Kennebec Lockes property.

Nazar said he understands the Planning Board’s concerns about possible future development elsewhere on the property but re-emphasized that the board is legally authorized only to review the proposal before them and decide whether it meets city ordinance standards. Like any developer, Nazar said, the housing authority must have its project reviewed on its effects and merits, independent of possible development that may or may not occur in the future nearby.

In October, city councilors, in a 4-3 vote decided by Mayor David Rollins’ tie-breaking vote, agreed to lease, probably at no cost, a portion of the city-owned land on the Kennebec Lockes site to the Augusta Housing Authority so the authority can develop housing on it. Councilors also voted to grant an affordable-housing tax agreement to the housing authority meant to help the project.

City Manager William Bridgeo, in a Dec. 29 letter to the Planning Board about the Augusta Housing Authority project, references those council votes and writes, “The Council has long had goals, stated in the city’s adopted Comprehensive Plan and in annual Council goal setting sessions, to improve the housing availability and quality across all economic levels within the city. That means encouraging everything from affordable rental units, such as these, to upscale rental units, such as the new units in our downtown.”

Housing officials said the development would not have subsidized rents but would be restricted to residents making less than 50 to 60 percent of the area median income. That could range from just over $17,000 a year in income for a single person in a one-unit apartment, up to $40,000 a year in income for a family in a three-bedroom unit. Rents would range from $581 to $967 a month.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.