Plans for a new shelter in Brunswick with more beds for the homeless may be on hold due to a zoning issue.

The town council tonight will consider an emergency moratorium to halt the construction of shelters in Brunswick. The reason — nothing in the current zoning allows for shelters, although Tedford Housing is already operating two in town.

The proposed moratorium would temporarily prohibit emergency housing shelters until the town can deal with the omission.

A moratorium would impact Tedford’s plan to consolidate its administrative offices and adult and family shelters on Federal and Cumberland streets. A new resource center would be constructed at the corner of Baribeau Drive and Pleasant Hill Road. The new building would also allow Tedford to provide more emergency housing.

“The moratorium and subsequent zoning ordinance process has the real potential to have a significant impact on the project,” Tedford Housing Executive Director Craig Phillips said.

Phillips said he wasn’t clear on what a moratorium would accomplish, and was unsure if the emergency family facility would be affected.

Tedford representatives and Brunswick town staff have met in recent weeks to discuss the project, ahead of a formal building application.

In March 15 letter to Phillips, however, Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Hutchinson said the proposed use of the first floor of a new facility is considered adult homeless shelter for temporary housing. That use is not listed in the town’s zoning, he wrote.

Hutchinson did note that the family units on the second floor of the planned project are a multi-family use, which is permitted by zoning at the proposed site.

Tedford Housing is analyzing exactly what the impact will be and its options.

“One of the key elements is certainly how much time this will take,” Phillips said, in addition to future zoning amendments.

In a memo to councilors, Town Manager John Eldridge wrote that “we believe the amendment would deal with definitions, zoning locations and other standards to address safety, security, and neighborhood compatibility. We envision that the process of preparing amendments would involve various stakeholders including Tedford.”

Phillips said Tedford is considering its options and may adjust its plans depending on feedback from town officials, neighbors and other interested parties.

What is clear is that the organization’s current shelter operations are not sustainable. Both buildings are at least 100 years old, Phillips said. Neither were designed to serve as shelters. Tedford searched for about a year for sites that would fit its criteria, and found it could not afford sites closer to the downtown.

And demand for temporary emergency housing is not decreasing. Tedford gets requests for help from approximately 300 families and 350 individuals a year.

“We turn away the vast majority of people who call us,” Phillips said, “so part of the key motivation for our mission is to add a reasonable number of beds to be able to serve more of the folks looking for emergency housing.”

Many sectors of the community have supported Tedford Housing, Phillips said, “so it behooves us to work with all interested parties to provide a resource to this community that really helps get people back on their feet and back to a home.”

The Brunswick Town Council meets tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

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