BRUNSWICK — Last week, Giff Jamison was about to go into a meeting when a homeless couple came into his office, looking for a bed at Tedford Shelter. They had been sleeping in a tent, were down to their last propane tank, and the temperature was expected to dip into the single digits. But there was no room at the shelter, Jamison, the shelter’s operations director, said. He had to turn the couple away.

“At that point, the conversation became less about zoning, it became less about the types of shelters we want to build,” he told the town council on Monday. “It became about hoping that couple would survive the night.” He asked the councilors expedite the process as much as possible, as there are many others in Brunswick in similar situations.

The task of creating a zoning ordinance for shelters in the town has stretched on for more than a year, but  “despite everyone’s best efforts,” the zoning ordinance and proposed performance standards will not be ready by the time the current moratorium expires March 24, town manager John Eldridge said. Councilors were expected to vote to extend the moratorium to July 1 at Monday night’s meeting, but after a public hearing, decided to push the vote to the next meeting, March 18, when all councilors are expected to be present.

Tedford Housing’s Cumberland Street unit in Brunswick, as seen in this March 2017 file photo. The process to develop zoning for shelters in Brunswick has now extended for more than a year, preventing Tedford from constructing a new shelter. (Ben Goodridge / The Times Record)

Sally Carignan, a Tedford Housing board member, said she was “angry and disappointed” in both the community and the council for how long and at times contentious the process has been.

Craig Phillips, director of Tedford Housing, said in an earlier interview that the timeline had been “frustrating,” adding it could be at least two more winters before Tedford is able to build a new homeless shelter and resource center.

Tedford officials first approached the town with plans for the 70-person shelter and resource center more than a year ago. Since then, there have been many shelter task force meetings, a moratorium extension, lengthy planning board meetings, public hearings and town council workshops.

Initially, members of the public were not put on the task force in an effort to help expedite the issue, but it is clear now that it did not do so, councilor Jane Millett said. Now that they are approaching the end though, the council is trying to work through it quickly while still creating an ordinance that will serve Brunswick for decades, she added.

The process started after the city stalled Tedford’s efforts to design, site and build the new shelter and resource center after town officials realized the Brunswick didn’t have an ordinance regulating homeless shelters — in spite of the fact that Tedford had operated in the community for decades. Town officials are concerned that there’s no saying who else might enter the game, and whether they’d work as well in the community as Tedford.

Some councilors, have pushed to draft a list of performance standards which would regulate how, and when, shelters could be run. A list of standards is expected to go out to councilors next week. The draft is relatively restrictive, Eldridge said, with the idea that the council can choose to take portions out.

Tedford board member Marcy McGuire said that despite what councilors may say, it ultimately is about Tedford, which is the only shelter operator in town. Tedford is the “yardstick” used to develop the ordinance. She asked that the council not make it “so onerous and costly” that it becomes difficult to run their organization, and instead help them find a viable location for the shelter.

As the ordinance has taken shape, excluding all residential districts as possibilities, Phillips is concerned that “when all is said and done there may not be a spot in Brunswick” where they can build the shelter they had planned and will likely have to “start virtually all over again,” he said.

The existing facilities, a singles shelter on Cumberland Street and a family shelter on Federal Street, are grandfathered in and would not be impacted by the new ordinance.

If the council votes to extend the moratorium for a second time (the first was in September), it does not necessarily mean that all work will be halted until July. If the zoning and performance standards are set at the next meeting, a public hearing could be held as soon as the first week of April. Once a decision is made, the moratorium can be lifted.

[email protected] 

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: