AUGUSTA — A proposal to build 29 units of affordable rental housing on part of the city-owned former Statler mill site is drawing concern about traffic access and compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood, casting doubt on potential future development on the riverside site.

The Planning Board, citing concern that Maple Street is inadequate to provide access to the site, postponed consideration of the plan Tuesday night until Jan. 2 after more than three hours of debate.

The proposal, made by the Augusta Housing Authority, calls for 29 units in three buildings, a reduction from an earlier plan calling for 34 units in six buildings.

Housing officials said the development would not have subsidized rents but would be restricted to residents making less than 50 to 60 percent of the area median income. That could range from just over $17,000 a year for a single person in a one-unit apartment, to $40,000 a year for a family in a three-bedroom unit. Rents would range from $581 to $967 a month.

Multiple board members said Tuesday night they thought Maple Street is too narrow to be the only way in and out of the former mill site, even though the city staff indicated access from the residential street is adequate and meets city ordinance standards. The staff also warned board members against holding the developers responsible for any potential future development near the project that is beyond their control.

Augusta officials have said they hope to see other development in the area. Some board members, after hearing the concerns of neighbors, said they couldn’t support the project without additional access.

“The discussion boils down … a project of this magnitude is inconsistent with neighborhood compatibility, based largely on access and egress,” said A. Delaine Nye, a planning board member. “What I want them to come back with is elevation drawings and, more importantly, to address my concerns about access though Maple Street. How can they come up with an alternate access, is there anything they can do to improve access to alleviate our concerns?”

Board member Corey Vose said developers of future projects on the city-owned site may want to use the same Maple Street access point, one of two access routes to the former mill site. Drum Barker Road, which is not maintained now, used to provide access to the northern end of the property, about a mile away from the housing proposal on the southern end.

Lionel Cayer, Augusta’s city engineer, and Matt Nazar, city development director, both said Maple Street is similar to many residential streets in Augusta. At 22 to 26 feet wide, the street is wider than many in Augusta, they said.

“This residential street is really not narrow compared to our residential street standard,” Cayer said. “So with these 29 units going in, my professional opinion is there is capacity on Maple Street for these units.”

Amanda Bartlett, executive director of the Augusta Housing Authority, said the agency reduced the size of the project in response to neighbors’ concerns.

“After meeting with neighbors and hearing concerns about neighborhood compatibility and traffic, we scaled that back to 29 units and three buildings,” she said.

Neighbors of the site, which for many years was home to paper mills, spoke out against the proposal, saying it would bring unwelcome traffic and disruption to the otherwise quiet neighborhood.

Steve Bushey, a consultant for Stantec working on the project, said the apartments would likely generate an additional 18 trips during the peak morning commuting hour and 34 trips during the peak evening commuting hour, well below state standards for requiring the project obtain a traffic movement permit.

The housing authority, which is independent of the city, would build the 29 apartments on about 3 acres, on the southern end and toward the rear, nonriverside portion of the nearly milelong, 20-acre property, which the city acquired from a mill owner in 2009 for nonpayment of taxes.

The mill closed in 2000. Before that, it had operated under various owners for 125 years.

The city has renamed the site Kennebec Lockes, and officials hope to see it redeveloped.

In October, councilors, in a 4-3 vote, agreed to lease, probably at no cost, part of the land on the Kennebec Lockes site to the Augusta Housing Authority.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]

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