AUGUSTA — A proposal to alter zoning rules to allow a 250-unit apartment complex on Civic Center Drive goes to city councilors Thursday.

Saxon Partners LLC officials want to build a two-building apartment complex in a zone where apartments aren’t allowed in north Augusta. That part of the city has been an area of growth, and where the Augusta’s comprehensive plan suggests there could be a mix of uses, including high-density residential development.

The Planning Board recommended the change in a unanimous vote last month, but the proposal is subject to approval by the City Council. The proposal councilors are scheduled to discuss at their Thursday meeting is to create a “contract zone” with the developer to allow up to 250 multi-family dwellings in a zone where they are not allowed now. If councilors approve the contract rezoning, the project itself still would need to go back to the Planning Board for a site plan review.

The developer of the proposed new apartments said it would market them to employees of the nearby MaineGeneral Medical Center and other workers at other area medical facilities and offices.

All the units would be either studio or one-bedroom apartments.

“What we’re doing is designed specifically for employees, most notably hospital employees,” Donald Smith, a partner in the Massachusetts-based Saxon, told city councilors recently. “It’s studios and ones; this isn’t aimed at families with kids and dogs and grandchildren. We’ve been running around the Northeast, and South and Midwest, finding sites near hospitals where we think there is a shortage of workforce housing.”

Saxon, according to the application materials, recently initiated a program developing apartment buildings designed for employees of major hospitals. The concept is meant to provide housing within easy commutes of medical facilities. Smith said the firm has developed thousands of units of rental housing, though the current focus on housing near hospitals is a new development. The company has four other sites currently in stages of planning and development similar to the one in Augusta, including plans for a facility in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

Asked by councilors how much the units would rent for, Smith said that hadn’t been determined yet, but said “these days, with construction costs, if you’re not getting $1,000 a unit, you’re probably losing money.”

Mayor David Rollins said, when the concept was presented initially to councilors last month, that some workers stay in area hotels for up to a year while working at the hospital.

The property, with addresses of 375, 377, 379 and 391 Civic Center Drive, would be just south of the Augusta Elks Club. The apartments would be accessible via a new entrance to be built at the Civic Center Drive and Leighton Road intersection, which already has a traffic signal.

The 15-acre site is in the Planned Development District, where multiple-family dwellings are not permitted. City planning officials have noted in a review of the proposal, however, that the property is in a location identified as an economic growth area in the 2007 Comprehensive Plan, which encourages mixed uses — including some residential development, especially high-density residential units.

Local housing officials have said Augusta has a shortage of quality rental units, resulting in significant unmet demand for housing.

The site would be near the recently constructed Camp Chamberlain, headquarters of the Maine Army National Guard, which opened this year. About 260 Guard members work at that location.

The developer said in its application the apartment buildings would be set back from the road, just over a high ridge line. It said two parcels of land with frontage on Civic Center Drive, on either side of the proposed entrance road, are planned for future commercial development, “most likely incorporating a small restaurant, retail, and/or office buildings.”

City councilors are scheduled to hold the first reading — of two required for passage — at their 7 p.m. meeting Thursday.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

• Hear a presentation on Constitution Week from the Maine State Daughters of the American Revolution;

• Consider granting a liquor license to Western View Golf Club on Bolton Hill Road; and

• Consider accepting the entrance road into North Station 3, a fire station at the intersection of Anthony Avenue and Leighton Road, as an extension of Anthony Avenue.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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