SANFORD — Not long ago, City Councilor Fred Smith was inside one of Sanford’s three-unit apartment buildings.

What he saw was one more fact that convinced him, he said, that a community development director is needed in the city.

Smith, who owns a cleaning and recycling business, was in the building in connection with his business.

“It was not fit for anybody, ever, to live in,” Smith told the City Council on Tuesday. “These homes are terrible. I’d love to take you on a tour. It blows your mind. If we don’t address these issues, it hurts the community as a whole.”

Through the budget referendum process, in June voters approved creation of a new position that at the time was billed as an assistant city manager who would have a concentration on housing issues.

On Tuesday, the council unanimously approved the title of community development director, and an advertisement for the position went up on the city website the following day.

Housing – particularly multi-family housing – will be a priority for the new hire.

About a third of Sanford’s multi-unit buildings are old. A study conducted prior to the budget approval process last spring showed that 33 percent were built before 1939.

“Their value continues to go down,” Mayor Tom Cote pointed out in an April interview. Owners of Sanford’s rental properties – which total 3,044 units – currently pay about 9 percent of the city’s assessed value, while owners of Sanford’s 6,386 single-family dwellings make up almost 62 percent.

Smith said some landlords take care of their multi-family units, but others do not.

“Its appalling how they allow some to live,’” he said.

Councilor Victor DiGregorio, who ultimately voted in favor of the proposal, had opposed an assistant manager position, and expressed worry that the creation of a position different from the one voters approved might contravene the city charter.

City Manager Steve Buck noted that the assistant city manager title had been a “place-holder” in the budget so the funding could be approved, and Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy said charter section 205.3 allows the council to create or change a position.

The position is budgeted at about $84,000 annually. This fiscal year, however, the city budgeted for a six-month position, and hopes to hire someone to start in January.

Councilor John Tuttle said he had initial concerns about an assistant city manager, but believes community development director is a better definition.

“Fred talks about housing issues, and they’re dire, and I agree with him,” said Tuttle. “It’s the right thing to do right now.”

“We do have a lot of lower-income families forced into undesirable locations, because that’s all they can afford,” said Councilor Lucas Lanigan.

“Sanford is on the precipice of redefining itself,” said Buck. “We’re turning the corner now, and have a large number of jobs being developed. We don’t have the type of housing we need.”

— 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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