WATERVILLE — A city councilor who says he believes he did more damage than good by rejecting a proposal to rezone a Highwood Street property for housing has asked that the matter be reconsidered.

Tom McCormick, an independent who represents Ward 7, said he knows the city needs the housing, but thought the request was being rushed through at a City Council meeting Tuesday.

“Maybe we should have tabled it instead of doing what we did,” McCormick said Friday. “I probably did more damage than good, because I voted against rezoning.”

The Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter wants to buy the vacant office building at 8 Highwood St. and turn it into apartments for seniors and disabled adults with families, with some temporary emergency units for the homeless, but rezoning is necessary to do so.

The Planning Board voted 7-0 on April 26 to recommend the council rezone the site.

The City Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday to approve the rezoning, but it requires a supermajority vote of at least five councilors to pass. It also requires two council votes, and only one could be taken Tuesday.


Since the request failed, there was not be a second vote. However, the city charter allows such a matter to be heard again if at least one councilor who voted on the prevailing side asks for reconsideration.

The council has scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday at The Elm at 21 College Ave. to reconsider rezoning the site.

The Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter seeks to buy this vacant building at 8 Highwood St. in Waterville and turn it into apartments for seniors and disabled adults with families, with some temporary emergency units for the homeless. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

The discussion last Tuesday on the housing issue became heated when council Chair Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, said she was disappointed in the council for not approving the rezoning, particularly as the city is in a housing crisis and such projects are needed.

Councilors Mike Morris, D-Ward 1, and Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, said there were too many unanswered questions about the proposal, including what the homeless shelter would do to alleviate neighbors’ concerns.

One neighbor, Lynn Berry, said people in the building would be able to see directly into the windows of her house. She and resident Owen Murray also had expressed concern to the Planning Board that there was a shooting and a standoff two years ago at the building.

Green asked homeless shelter Executive Director Katie Spencer White if the project could still move forward if the council tabled it for two weeks. White said it could not because of funding deadlines that had to be met, and a time line for an option to buy the building.


Green and Councilors Flavia DeBrito, D-Ward 2, Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, and Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, voted to approve the rezoning. McCormick joined Morris and Foss in voting against.

Morris, in whose ward the site is located, said Friday he thinks the housing project is a good one, and he agrees there is a housing crisis that need be alleviated, but 8 Highwood St. is not the right place to put it. It is a former office building, and that use is a better match, he said.

“This is not the right building. This is not the right location,” Morris said. “I have received probably six or seven emails, four or five different phone calls, various text messages in opposition to this project in this neighborhood, from neighbors.”

He said one person expressed support for the project, although Morris said he does not know where that person lives. Unless the neighbors tell him they have changed their minds about the project and support it, he said he will vote against rezoning Tuesday.

“I represent these folks,” Morris said. “I’m their voice.”

He said neighbors are exhausted and feeling stress related to the matter.


“It’s a very touchy subject,” Morris said, “because it’s a real thing, and nobody wants to be the bad guy, so to speak, and I don’t think they are. They have legitimate concerns.”

But McCormick said that while the request seemed rushed and he believes the project should have been discussed three months ago to allow more time, he knows Waterville needs more housing.

“I could have used that housing 10 years ago when my mother-in-law lost her apartment and we had no place to put her,” he said. “With a place like this, we could have moved her in. She ended up living with us, and she lost all her support.”

McCormick said some people will say Highwood Street is not the best fit for such housing, but options for other sites are limited.

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