The Augusta Planning Board rejected a request to waive some city zoning requirements for a proposal to build a new, 50-unit apartment building for senior citizens in a high-profile spot on Western Avenue.

Developer, real estate agent and landlord Jim Pepin, who owned dozens of smaller apartment buildings in central Maine until he sold them in March, put forth the proposal.

His plan calls for demolition of an existing office building at the corner of Western Avenue and Pike Street that has been vacant for the last 10 years. In its place, Pepin proposes to build a new four-story, 50-unit apartment complex for people 55 or older.

He told Planning Board members Tuesday the new building would be state-of-the-art, feature amenities including some covered parking, would be in a high-profile convenient location close to shopping to which residents could walk, and meet an existing and projected need for safe, affordable housing for senior citizens.

“Our thought is to turn this blighted property at 99 Western Ave. into something pretty special, something grand that will have good curb appeal,” Pepin said of the proposal.

He noted the site, which is next to TD Bank and across Western Avenue from Augusta House of Pancakes, is in close proximity to those and other amenities, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and the interstate.

“On a scale of one to 10, that location is a 10, it’s a great place for seniors to be,” Pepin said.

Also in the area are other apartment buildings, residential homes, an ENSO Recovery residential drug treatment facility, dentist offices, a medical marijuana retail store and other businesses.

As proposed, the project would rely on the city to make exceptions to some zoning requirements, including minimum setbacks and the normally required number of parking spaces.

Without the changes, Pepin said, the roughly $10 million to $12.5 million project wouldn’t be able to have nearly as many apartments on the site and all 50 units are likely needed to make the project financially viable.

The Planning Board voted, 2-3, against recommending a proposed contract zoning agreement Tuesday. That would have waived some requirements of the two zoning districts that apply to the site where it would be located.

Board members indicated they were concerned the location on busy Western Avenue would not be a good place for senior citizens to live, and that the proposal didn’t include enough parking.

Several residents expressed opposition to the project. Among the concerns raised were that it would bring too much traffic into the residential neighborhood off Western Avenue, the building would be too big for the site and would not fit into the character of the neighborhood, and the proposal didn’t include enough green space.

The City Council would also have to approve the contract zoning proposal, and the project itself would have to return to the Planning Board for a more detailed review, for it to move forward. The developers could still bring the proposed contract zoning agreement directly to the City Council for consideration, even with the Planning Board vote to not recommend it.

The contract proposes the project only be required to have 42 parking spaces, compared to the one-per-unit that would normally be required by the zoning ordinance, and have reduced setback requirements from city streets. A parking study conducted for the project indicated it would need parking for 31 vehicles, according to Jim Coffin, of Coffin Engineering and Surveying, a consultant on the project.

The proposed agreement also would have allowed the building to be up to 45 feet high, 3 feet more than the 42 feet allowed in the ordinance, according to Betsy Poulin, deputy city planner.

The building would have 41 one-bedroom units and nine two-bedroom units.

The project would be partially funded with tax credits through the Maine State Housing Authority, with the units deemed “affordable” only available to tenants who fall within maximum income guidelines. This is similar to the funding packages for the redevelopment of the former Hodgkins Middle School into Hodgkins School Apartments and the Cony flatiron building into the Cony Flatiron Senior Residence.

Most of the apartments, according to Andy Jackson, a consultant on the project, would rent for about $750 for a one-bedroom and $895 for a two-bedroom.

Some apartments, up to 20% of them, would also be rented out at whatever the going market rates are at the time, or about $1,000 a month.

“We feel like those are very reasonable rents,” Jackson said. “The funding programs we’re pursuing are similar to the Cony and Hodgkins projects. Our understanding is those are full, with waiting lists. I can say these types of properties tend to run very full, they have waiting lists, there’s demand for quality new housing construction with elevators, covered parking and all the amenities.”

Jackson said a study of senior housing in Maine indicated that in 2022 there would be a shortfall, of safe affordable housing units, of 15,000 and, in Kennebec County, a shortfall of 1,500 units.

A video of the meeting, which was being livestreamed, went down Tuesday night, and was not available for viewing through the city’s website Wednesday. Recordings are usually available for viewing following the meeting.

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