This is an architect’s rendering which shows the former St. Ignatius Church and school – with an addition – transformed into 66 senior citizen housing units. The project got the green light from the Sanford Planning Board Wednesday evening.

This is an architect’s rendering which shows the former St. Ignatius Church and school – with an addition – transformed into 66 senior citizen housing units. The project got the green light from the Sanford Planning Board Wednesday evening.

SANFORD — A proposal to create 66 units of affordable senior citizen housing in a former Catholic church and school was approved by the Planning Board Wednesday.

Now, the next step is funding. Officials hired by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland’s Diocesan Bureau of Housing will approach the Maine State Housing Authority in October, looking for federal tax credits to renovate the old school and build an addition.

Kevin Bunker, owner of Developers Collaborative, under contract to the DBH, said if the tax credits are forthcoming, construction would likely begin in June.

“Affordable” in this case means rents will be in the $600-$700 a month range, said Bunker, and available to those earning 60 percent of the area median income. Tenants, who would be 55 years old and older, would typically have an annual income of $20,000 to $30,000, he estimated.

The project transforms the former St. Ignatius Church, which once also housed a parochial school, into apartments. The pro- posed $11 million project would result in 42 units in the existing structure, composed of 12 efficiency units, 24 one-bedroom units and six two-bedroom units, along with 24 unit addition, composed of one efficiency unit and 23 one-bedroom apartments.

And although the church is a non-profit entity, exempt from property tax, the apartment complex is subject to taxation.

The property had been for sale for some time – the last Mass was celebrated in the church in October, 2010.

Planning Board members asked about parking – and granted a request for the 30 percent reduction in the number of parking spaces required under the ordinance, resulting in a total of 71, with 69 on the apartment property and two more designated through an easement from the diocese, which is an abutter.

Planning Director Jim Gulnac said he believes that the 71 spaces will provide enough parking for the 66- unit apartment complex.

City engineer Mike Casserly said the Sanford Fire Marshal attempted to maneuver St. Ignatius Street with a fire truck and could not make the turn from Main Street without backing up. He said elimination of two, 30 minute parking spaces is expected to negate that problem.

The management of the complex will also have to make arrangements to have large amounts of snow trucked away from the site.

Abutter Mark Pombriant expressed concern about light coming on to his property from the complex. Bunker said the developer is willing to install fencing to eliminate issues.

Other possible uses for the former church and school had been discussed since the property went up for sale – including retail, Rev. Phil Tracy said in a prior interview. He said many parishioners have emotional ties to the former church and school.

“I felt, in conjunction with our advisory board, that it was important to have something here in keeping with the church’s mission,” Tracy said. “It is such an iconic structure, and a place many called home.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has completed other senior citizen housing projects in several Maine communities, including Augusta, Bangor, Portland, Rockland and Waterville.

In another matter, the Planning Board on Wednesday voted to table an application from for a 15-lot cluster subdivision on Country Club 3 Road from Heritage Realty Trust, pending a resolution of a storm water plan.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]


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