BRUNSWICK — More than a year and dozens of meetings after it first came before town officials, councilors approved two zoning ordinances Monday night regulating where homeless shelters can be located and how they are allowed to operate in Brunswick.

With the new rules in place, Tedford Housing can once again start making plans for a new homeless shelter and resource center that has been shelved since last year.

Councilors voted Monday to enact the ordinances on an emergency basis and terminate a moratorium on shelter development, meaning that as soon as they are ready, Tedford can start looking toward the future.

Brunswick’s Tedford Housing brought forward plans last year for a new shelter and homelessness resource center in the town. Tedford operates a shelter for single adults on Cumberland Street and a six-unit apartment-style shelter for families on Federal street, and the current number of beds is not meeting the growing community need– last year, Tedford officials had to turn away 354 individuals and 228 families because they did not have enough space.

Tedford Housing’s Cumberland Street unit in Brunswick, as seen in this March 2017 file photo (Ben Goodridge / The Times Record)

When Executive Director Craig Phillips and Tedford board members brought their proposal forward, town officials realized Brunswick did not have any zoning ordinances regulating shelters, despite the fact that Tedford had been operating for decades. 

However, some councilors worried that other entities might try to set up shelters in the city, and therefore have been careful to note that whatever zoning ordinance they create will serve Brunswick for the foreseeable future.


A long list of performance standards came before the town council March 18 and some, like a six-month cap on how long a person could stay, a requirement that the facility remain open 24-hours per day and a town-wide cap on the number of beds were all potentially “extremely problematic” according to Craig Phillips, executive director of Tedford Housing.

The suggested six-month cap for how long a person could stay in the shelter was “a cruel way to treat people” and is “contrary to everything Tedford represents,” he said in an earlier interview. He added that there are often external factors that may postpone a person getting a housing voucher or securing stable housing.

Resident Jake Jakubowski addressed the council as someone with stable employment, stable finances, permanent housing and a successful life thanks to the assistance he received from Tedford — assistance that included a seven-month stay at the shelter. Had he been asked to leave after six months, he said, he would not be able to be where he is now.

Craig Phillips, Tedford Housing’s executive director (Times record file photo)

After many people spoke against the cap on duration at Monday night’s hearing, councilors removed the requirement.

The ordinance limits the maximum number of beds in town to 85, although councilor Christopher Watkinson said such a cap was not “a realistic remedy for homelessness.”

Councilor Dan Ankeles agreed that the cap was “a grave mistake,” but voted for the ordinance because he promised constituents he “would not die on a hill tonight” and would “try to get something over the finish line.” He did add though that he hopes in the future they might be able to reconsider the cap if the need arises. Tedford’s most recently proposed shelter and resource center had 70 beds and would close the existing facilities on Cumberland and Federal streets.


Among other performance standards, shelters are required to participate in the Maine State Housing Authority Monitoring Program, which Tedford is already a part of. Shelters must also reapply for licenses every five years, as per the ordinance.

The adopted ordinance also requires non-apartment style shelters to have 24-hour on-site supervision, which Tedford’s attorney John Cunningham called a “deluxe way of running a shelter.” Tedford currently closes during the day with the intent that people will use that time for productive means like working to get a housing voucher or finding employment.

During the public hearing, resident Myrna Koonce agreed with Cunningham, adding that it would increase the costs for the shelter and possibly unintentionally send the message that “people are being asked to not come into the community (during the day) and stay out of sight and out of mind.”

Regulating how, when and where shelters can operate is making it harder for organizations like Tedford to “operate a humanitarian need,” councilor Stephen Walker said at an earlier meeting.

“What we’ve done to date has been to limit the location of where a resource center can be,”  he said Monday, and added that by pushing the allowed locations to the edge of town, “we’re marginalizing people.”

The list of places where Tedford could build a new shelter is shrinking, as councilors agreed earlier this year to prohibit new shelters in any residential zones and to institute a 1,000-foot buffer between any two shelters after significant pushback from a group of homeowners close to downtown. Monday night they voted to add a stipulation that there can be more than one shelter within the buffer zone if they are on the same parcel of land.

Phillips said earlier he 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.

Cumulatively, the restraints “create a major challenge for a small nonprofit like Tedford,” board member Field Griffith told the council, as restructuring their entire operation is “not something we do every day.” The buffer zone and the cap both could make future growth “a very difficult task,” he said.

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