Waterville council votes to approve rezoning Highwood Road property for housing undertaking

WATERVILLE — The Metropolis Council took a step ahead Tuesday to alleviate the housing disaster within the metropolis when it voted 7-0 to approve rezoning 8 Highwood St. so it may be reworked into flats for seniors, adults with disabilities and their households, and emergency models for homeless individuals.

It was a turnaround from a vote the council took Might 3  to reject the rezoning request, with some councilors saying individuals within the neighborhood help housing however don’t want it at that location, and there have been too many unanswered questions in regards to the undertaking. Whereas extra councilors voted for than in opposition to — the tally was 4-3 — rezoning requires a supermajority vote, so the request initially failed.

Councilor Tom McCormick, an impartial representing Ward 7, requested Might 6 that the council rethink its vote as a result of he mentioned there’s a important want for housing within the metropolis. He and Councilors Mike Morris, D-Ward 1, and Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, voted final week in favor of rezoning, however Foss urged neighborhood residents and homeless shelter officers to debate the matter to attempt to resolve some points and discover widespread floor earlier than the council took its remaining vote Tuesday.

Councilors took an preliminary 7-0 vote final week to approve the rezoning. The homeless shelter desires to purchase the vacant constructing on Highwood and develop about 80% of it into flats for seniors and households, and 20% into emergency housing.

On Monday night time, the homeless shelter held a public dialogue in regards to the undertaking, searching for to reply questions and supply data to neighbors and others. Morris, in whose ward the Highwood Road constructing is situated, attended that assembly.

He instructed councilors Tuesday night time that during the last week, extra data was made obtainable in regards to the undertaking and progress had been made in discussions. General, some good data was imparted in regards to the causes the housing is required, he mentioned.

He mentioned neighborhood residents are constructive in regards to the undertaking however involved about its execution. Morris mentioned he’s keen to gather names of individuals impacted by the event so a gathering might be deliberate to handle considerations.

Foss mentioned he’s comfortable either side may talk about the difficulty, which is what he had hoped would occur.

“It’s encouraging. That’s what we’d like on this society is extra speaking as a substitute of butting heads.”

However Jessie Morris of Central Avenue mentioned she and her household moved to the neighborhood 18 years in the past from Bangor to be in a secure space and he or she has considerations in regards to the undertaking. She mentioned she additionally was representing different individuals within the neighborhood who couldn’t attend the assembly.

“They wish to put their houses up on the market and transfer,” she mentioned. “I’m afraid of shedding my neighborhood and shedding my neighborhood due to this.”

Having one other residence constructing would trigger extra stress to the household atmosphere, in line with Morris.

“I do have a variety of compassion for individuals who want an residence, however I’m additionally involved for the protection of my neighborhood,” she mentioned.

Katie Spencer White, president and CEO of the homeless shelter, has mentioned individuals residing within the constructing can be vetted and obtain help together with case administration, and shelter workers can be obtainable to tenants always.

In different issues Tuesday, the council took a remaining vote to rezone 72 Nice St. and 5 Center St. to permit for Ware-Butler Constructing Provide to make use of the workplace on the positioning for its company places of work and the parking zone for individuals in these places of work.

Councilors voted 6-1 to contract with Fitch & Associates LLC for $60,000 to investigate the Hearth Division’s EMS Companies on the request of fireplace Chief Shawn Esler. Councilors engaged in a prolonged dialogue in regards to the request, with Councilor Claude Francke-D-Ward 6, saying he thought such a big expenditure ought to come earlier than the town’s finance committee.

Town companions with Delta Ambulance for EMS providers and two years in the past, Esler, Morris and Mayor Jay Coelho satisfied the town to purchase an ambulance so the Hearth Division may transport sufferers as a manner of assuaging delays and producing income. Esler mentioned Fitch’s research may present whether or not it’s higher for the town to finish its contract with Delta Ambulance and be the only supplier of ambulance providers for the town. He produced numbers that he says exhibits the town could make sufficient income to go by itself.

Morris and Coelho advocated for having a research performed by Fitch, which officers mentioned did an analogous research for Delta. Coelho mentioned that eight occasions within the final three weeks, Hearth Division workers needed to cowl for Delta employees who weren’t obtainable. Coelho urged the town to finish its contract with Delta and go by itself. Town would generate extra income by doing so, in line with Coelho.

“Sooner or later, someone’s going to get bored with this nonsense,” he mentioned. “I do know I’m, however I don’t vote on nothing.”

Council Chairperson Rebecca Inexperienced, D-Ward 4, urged the council to desk the matter till the following assembly.

“It’s a massive ticket merchandise, and I feel it needs to be thought-about throughout the context of the price range,” she mentioned.

Francke mentioned the research would come with six months of accumulating and analyzing information and issuance of a report, with all of that taking a couple of 12 months. He mentioned he didn’t see why the council needed to rush a choice.

“This council has develop into a ‘leap earlier than you look’ council, and I feel it’s time to cease that,” he mentioned.

Inexperienced’s movement to desk dialogue to the following assembly failed. The council then voted 6-1 to approve the contract with Fitch, with Francke the lone dissenter. Inexperienced hesitated to vote in favor, however mentioned she was doing so as a result of she did assume selections should be primarily based on information. She mentioned she needed to be clear, nevertheless, that the council, in its vote, is speaking about serving the town and never the entire area.

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