The Augusta Planning Board has approved a proposal to redevelop 99 Western Ave. in Augusta. The buildings would be razed and replaced with a 38-unit apartment building. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — Developer Matt Morrill’s plan to build an affordable housing complex at 99 Western Ave. has received key approvals over the past week.

Morrill, developer of Stevens Commons in Hallowell, secured the Augusta Planning Board’s unanimous approval Tuesday to tear down a dilapidated and long-vacant office building on Western Avenue and build a 38-unit apartment building offering studio and one-bedroom apartments.

On Thursday night, Morrill won a 30-year tax break after receiving approval unanimously from the City Council to help pay for it.

The tax increment financing, or TIF, deal approved by councilors Thursday will return 69% of the tax revenues expected to result from development of the site for the next 30 years. The tax break is estimated to be $37,455 a year, or $1.12 million over 30 years.

The reimbursement exceeds the city’s typical 50% reimbursement rate for such deals, but Keith Luke, director of economic development, said in a memorandum several factors weighed in favor of the request from Morrill’s Mastway Development firm.

The factors include that site acquisition and preparation costs are almost $1 million, and all of the project’s units will be affordable for at least 45 years and be partially funded through a Maine State Housing Authority tax credit program.


The “affordable” designation means the apartments would be meant for those making 60% or less of the area’s median income. The maximum rent that could be charged would be tied to an affordability index for those income levels, currently set at $903 a month for one-bedroom units and $843 for studio units.

The TIF would also shelter the other 31% of those funds over the 30 years — a total of $505,000, or $16,823 a year, which would be retained by the city.

City plans for those funds include $150,000 for improvements to pedestrian safety and to traffic signals on Western Avenue, putting $100,000 into a fund dedicated to creating additional affordable housing needed in the community, and using $255,000 to help cover the city’s costs to administer its affordable housing program.

TIFs allow municipalities to shelter property taxes generated by new development within designated districts. Sheltering money through a TIF means it would not be added to the city’s total property valuation for state tax calculation purposes.

Morrill said the TIF is a key piece and one of the only ways the project would happen.

He said the apartments will target working people, especially those in service industries, who need affordable housing.


“It’s for working people, you know, service people, who need somewhere to live,” Morrill said, adding that some of his construction company’s employees have had a hard time finding housing in the area. “This is an attempt to take a little bit of a bite out of that. It’s going to take an eyesore away from the city of Augusta and provide affordable rental housing.”

Councilors approved the TIF request unanimously and praised Morrill for making changes to address concerns expressed by neighbors when it was first proposed.

Planning Board members also approved the project unanimously Tuesday night, applauding the developer’s response to concerns expressed by neighbors in discussions that resulted in a zoning change being approved for the project. Neighbors’ concerns included pedestrian safety and what some saw as a lack of parking,

“You’ve come and listened to the public, you’ve answered the questions,” Bob Corey, a Planning Board member, told Morrill. “The work you’ve done and the package you’ve put together is, to me, a very good package.”

One neighbor, Shay Freeman, said she fully supports the project because the area needs good, affordable housing. She also said she hopes it helps revitalize Western Avenue.

Another neighbor, Colleen Allen-Roig, who has lived on Pike Street for 23 years, spoke against the project, saying it is too big for such a small lot (less than an acre); still lacks adequate parking, which could result in tenants and their visitors parking on narrow Pike Street; lacks green space where children living there could play; and is too close to high-traffic Western Avenue.


She urged the board reject the project, as it did a 50-unit apartment project proposed for the site by another developer, Jim Pepin, in 2020.

“It was voted down then for the same reasons it needs to be voted down now,” Allen-Roig said.

Board members voted to allow Morrill to build the building only 15 feet from Western Avenue, not the ordinance-required 30 feet, and granted a waiver of the city’s normal requirement for apartments in that zone to have two parking space per unit.

Plans call for the site to have 46 parking spaces, or 1.13 spaces per dwelling unit.

The project was initially to have 38 parking spaces, but Morrill worked with the city’s engineer, Tyler Pease, to fit 46 space on the property by reducing the size of each space.

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