April 06, 2020

Ellsworth board’s vote stalls low-income apartments

ELLSWORTH – A developer that wants to build 29 low-income apartments near the city’s downtown pulled its request for approval from the planning board after being denied a waiver related to the project.

Realty Resources, a Rockport-based firm that has been developing projects across the state for more than 30 years, now may have to go back to the drawing board.

And it could come at a price.

Several residents in the neighborhood of Davis Street, Fox Street and Birch Avenue, off Route 1A, spoke at Wednesday night’s planning board meeting in opposition of the project.

They all agreed that Davis Street, where the apartment complex would go, is too narrow and too steep to accommodate the project. The road would have to be altered, they said.

Residents also said the increase in traffic brought on by 29 new families in the neighborhood is too big of a burden.

“The traffic on [Route 1A] is bad enough already,” said Glendon Sprague, who lives on Fox Street. “As it is, it’s nearly impossible to turn from Fox or Davis.”

The planning board agreed with those concerns and voted to deny a waiver request related to the slope of Davis Street and other safety measures.

The board could still have continued discussion of the proposal and could even have voted to accept or deny the project request, but Ed Marsh of Realty Resources decided instead to pull the item, at least temporarily.

Marsh did not return a call Thursday for comment, so it wasn’t clear what the developer’s next step will be.

Ellsworth City Planner Michele Gagnon, however, said Marsh had already requested that an item be placed on the planning board’s agenda for November.

Realty Resources originally brought its $6 million proposal to the city earlier this year. The plans are to build three apartment buildings to house 29 units, a mix of three- and two-bedroom units.

Marsh previously said that the apartments would be targeted toward Ellsworth residents whose income is below 60 percent of the median income for the area.

The rent would be capped at 30 percent of household income.

The income limit would be about $26,000 for a small family needing a two-bedroom unit and $28,000 for a bigger family needing a three-bedroom unit, as based on estimates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“This is a good project,” Marsh said at Wednesday’s meeting with the planning board. “There already are a huge amount of road improvements planned and we’ve worked hard to address a lot of concerns.”

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