Last week the Biddeford City Council voted to allow increased residential density in certain circumstances in the downtown. DINA MENDROS/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — On March 5, the Biddeford City Council approved increasing residential density in certain instances in the city’s urban core. The following night, the Planning Board recommended increasing the area of the urban core zone — the council will consider this item at their next meeting.

The intent of the council vote to allow a density bonus to residential units in particular instances “is to try to increase the availability of affordable housing” in the MSRD 2 zone, Chief Operating Officer Brian Phinney said. The housing stock in the downtown has decreased, he said, with cost for housing in the same area has increased.The average rent of a two-bedroom apartment has increased sharply in the past three years, from $835 to $1,305 a month. The reason in part for the increase is increased redevelopment in Biddeford’s urban core, Phinney said.

Under the change, a property owner can receive a density bonus of one residential unit for every 650 square feet of living space within an existing structure providing certain criteria are met. For instance, to receive the density bonus, a property that has units of two or more bedrooms must maintain the same number of units with at least two bedrooms, Phinney said. Also, applicants who receive a density bonus must enter into a contract with the city requiring them to complete renovations in accordance with the Maine Housing Quality standard those units much be certified as such before an occupancy permit is granted.

If a density bonus is to renovate condominiums, the sale price for the units must be no more than 125 percent of the York Country median home value, Phinney said. The median home price in Biddeford rose from $179,900 in 2013 to $234,900 in 2017.

On March 6, the Planning Board held a public hearing on expanding the area of the MSRD 2 zone. The Planning Board voted recommend that the ordinance amendment pass and the City Council will take up the issue at its next meeting on March 16, a second vote would be necessary for the amendment to take affect.

The area affected, which is currently an R-2 zone, would be from Union Street heading north, and bordered by Alfred Street on the east and Elm Street to the left.

The change “will take in an area already suited to MSRD 2 because of existing density,” City Planner Greg Tansley said.

If passed, the amendment would allow a change in some permitted and conditional uses as well as increased density that would allow more units in the area and make some of the non-conforming multi-family units to become conforming.

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 780-9014 or [email protected] Portland Press Herald Gillian Graham contributed to this story.


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