BRUNSWICK — As Brunswick’s Shelter Task Force irons out zoning definitions and rules governing homeless shelters, another winter is fast approaching.

Meanwhile, Tedford Housing’s proposal to build a new shelter is on hold until the town approves the new rules, according to Executive Director Craig Phillips.

“The existing facility will have to work as best it can,” Phillips said.

Nearly nine months ago, Tedford Housing announced plans to build the new shelter and resource center on Baribeau Drive and Pleasant Hill Road to provide temporary housing for hundreds of displaced people the agency has had to turn away in the past. However, Brunswick officials realized current zoning rules don’t define homeless shelters, so they are not technically permitted even though Tedford has been operating emergency housing for years.

Zoning changes would not affect Tedford’s current emergency housing on Federal and Cumberland streets because those facilities are grandfathered.

“Everybody is talking about this in context to Tedford,” said James Mason, the task force chairman. “There’s a lot of talking about the organization, but all we’re dealing with is the dry issues of how to rewrite a zoning code.”


But when it comes to homelessness, it becomes “anything but a dry issue,” he said.

At Monday night’s town council meeting, several residents spoke about the proposed shelter.

One woman wondered whether Brunswick can afford to be the midcoast’s regional shelter. “If we build it, they will come,” she said.

Phil Studwell, president of the Gathering Place, a daytime drop-in center, on the other hand, spoke in favor of the new shelter’s potential to draw homeless or struggling people to the area.

“We’re a beacon,” Studwell said, “let’s stay that way.”

Councilor Kathy Wilson said the priority is to figure out shelter zoning, not whether Tedford is a good neighbor. Whatever changes are made, she said, would probably stay in place for 15 or 20 years and could govern rehabilitation facilities, halfway houses and more.


The task force presented recommendations to the council Monday, but no date has been set for a workshop between councilors and the planning board to examine them.

Main points include defining shelters as apartment style, non-apartment style or resource center and ensuring that all applications go before the Planning Board.

The task force also is weighing how many beds a shelter should be allowed to have, but instead of instituting a maximum, the task force suggested four residents per dwelling unit and “applying that number to each zoning district to determine density.”

That would set a limit of 10 beds in some zones while allowing up to 200 in others, Mason said, and there was no consensus on whether those sizes were too large or too small.

The workshop will hopefully address some of these disagreements, Mason said, although the planning board could look at the recommendations and go in another direction. In the best case scenario, he said, the zoning might be completed within three to four months.

Phillips said Tedford Housing was encouraged by the town’s awareness of the “significant need” of Brunswick’s homeless.

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