SCARBOROUGH — The Town Council approved an additional allocation of $200,000 from the Scarborough Housing Alliance to boost the chances that financing will be lined up for the proposed Bessey Commons II affordable housing project.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved using funds from the town’s $1.2 million Affordable Housing Initiative Fund to help the project developer apply for financing under the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program through the Maine State Housing Authority.

A letter from the developer, Housing Initiatives of New England of Portland to the council July 10 said they are in the process of finding additional equity over $2 million to make the project viable, with the goal of starting this year.

The new affordable housing at 1 Bessey School Drive off U.S. Route 1 will provide 40 additional one-bedroom apartments for seniors. The town funds will be used to leverage capital from the Maine State Housing Authority and other sources.

In 2018, the Housing Alliance received $100,000 from the town to help with the cost of its application to MSHA, but did not achieve state funding. The latest request for an additional $200,000 was done to increase the likelihood of receiving funding from the LIHTCP.

Councilor Bill Donovan said he believes the application has a much higher likelihood of getting grants, funding, and tax benefits from state and federal government this year, which will draw investors in.

This is a long-term lease of municipal property, right where we want it,” he said. “Approving these funds will improve the chance this deal will come together, and that is why the housing authority proposed what they did here.”

Councilor Don Hamill said he was worried about procuring enough funds to cover site costs, sanitary fees and permit fees the developer had highlighted.

The project now heads to MSHA for approval; the town expects to hear back no later than late September. The Affordable Housing Initiative Fund would have a balance of $716,000 if the project moves forward.

Besides modifying an existing affordable housing tax increment financing district to enable the housing project to acquire financing, councilors on Wednesday also unanimously approved $90,000 for the Scarborough Land Trust to protect 14 acres of town-owned land in the Pine Point area. Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina was absent.

The the allocation empties the town’s Land Bond account.

Rich Bard, executive director of the trust, said the total cost of the Blue Point Preserve Campaign would be $270,000. The funds will go toward the purchase of property at 236 Pine Point Road and an adjacent parcel near Seavey Landing on Pine Point Road, plus improvements for public access (such as a parking lot and walking trail construction) and future maintenance. Councilors unanimously approved the first reading of the request on June 19.

“This is an exciting acquisition, but does deplete the account,” Councilor John Cloutier said. “That’s something we need to keep an eye on if we want to put it in front of voters again in the future.” 

There are no plans to replenish the fund in the foreseeable future.

Bard said in an interview May 15 that the Blue Point Preserve Campaign launched last fall, when members of the Blue Point Congregational Church governing board approached the trust about conserving the land adjacent to the church.  

Since then, the trust has signed a contract to purchase the land and completed some background work. The only thing left to do is raise the money. 

Bard said the trust is still seeking community donations to cover the $47,000 in costs. Businesses and individuals have already begun supporting the campaign, with one neighbor contributing $34,000 to the project.

According to the trust, a habitat analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the Blue Point Preserve is likely to protect high-value habitat for several bird species, including snowy egret, whippoorwill, oriole and more. 

The 14 acres of town-owned land will be available for walking trails and access to Scarborough Marsh for birding, photography, nature appreciation, and other passive uses. 

This is the trust’s first preserve in the Pine Point area. Since 2004, it has spent just over $3.4 million to acquire 725 acres of land using Land Bond funds. The new parcel will add to the six public access preserves in town. 

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