As Brunswick Landing businesses grow, housing at the former Navy base is due to expand, too.

But not everyone is happy about the housing plans, and a town councilor believes they will displace renters who can’t afford to buy homes.

Brunswick Landing Venture, a real estate and rental company that owns about 400 former Navy housing units on six properties in Brunswick and Topsham, hopes to begin construction soon on the first phase of a new condo project in Brunswick.

Earlier this month, the Planning Board approved plans submitted by Sitelines PA on behalf of Brunswick Landing Condominiums to build 40 new condominiums on two lots owned by the company. The condos will include two-unit, three-unit, and four-unit buildings.

Re/Max Riverside’s Sue Spann said last week that one-story condos will be priced at $290,000, while three-bedroom townhouses will cost $325,000.

The owners say the desire to build new homes and an initiative to convert rental properties into housing that renters can buy are driven by pent-up demand for home sales.

“We’ve had a number of tenants over the last year that have expressed interest in wanting to buy,” said Chris Rhoades, one of the founders of Brunswick Landing Venture. “Many of them have moved out to buy elsewhere.”

But the prospect of more homes for sale doesn’t please Town Councilor Christopher Watkinson. On June 5, Watkinson submitted a letter to the Planning Board asking it to not approve the new condos.

If they did decide to approve the proposal, the letter asked board members to do so “with a caveat that a percentage of existing and new construction will be permanently set aside for rental.”

Watkinson said Brunswick Landing Venture’s plan would “destabilize the rental and for-sale market,” and force families who can’t afford to buy out of the community.

He also said he had been contacted by renters of units owned by Brunswick Landing Venture who expressed “desperation” and “frustration” at what they perceived to be a “bait-and-switch” situation, where rentals were simply part of a strategy to eventually sell the units.

At the meeting, Chairman Charles Frizzle said the request raised in the letter was “beyond the scope” of what the Planning Department can do under the current zoning ordinance.

“We cannot demand that an applicant build a certain type of housing,” Frizzle said. “We have to approve whatever it is they bring to us in terms of type of housing based on what’s in the ordinance.”

He said the time to approach board members with such an issue would have been when the ordinance was rewritten last year.

Rhoades acknowledged there are some residents who don’t want to purchase their units, and said the company is doing “everything (it) can” to accommodate them on other rental property.

The original plan proposed last summer for the former Navy property was to build 200 new units, divided evenly between Brunswick and Topsham.

“If we finish phase 1 of 40 units we’ll make another application for the next phase in Brunswick until we run out of land, which should be somewhere around 100 units,” Rhoades said. “And then we would look to Topsham in two or three years. If we’re successful in Brunswick, we’d do the same thing in Topsham.”

Rhoades said his company is trying to “appeal to all of southern Maine” in promoting Brunswick. He cited the town’s proximity to both Portland and Augusta, its downtown, art scene, hiking and biking trails, and being home to Bowdoin College as some key features.

The new housing also coincides with the growth of Brunswick Landing.

According to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority website, the business campus is now home to 105 businesses and has created 1,600 jobs – more than double its original projection for job creation.

Spann, whose agency markets the Brunswick Landing housing, said there seems to be “quite a bit” of initial interest in the new condos, but time will be a better indicator of demand.

“We’re not (going) to really know how much (interest there is) until at least a model is on the ground and people can see,” she said.

The developers are hoping for approval of necessary permits by the end of the summer.

Elizabeth Clemente can be contacted at 781-3661 ext. 100 or at:

[email protected] Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

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