On Dec. 5 the Biddeford City Council approved a contract zone that is needed for 250-unit, two building apartment complex being planned off Barra Road in Biddeford. Dina Mendros file photo

BIDDEFORD — A planned 250-unit, six-floor, two-building, multifamily apartment complex off Barra Road in Biddeford is one step closer to becoming a reality. On Thursday, Dec. 5 the Biddeford City Council approved a contract zone necessary for the project to move forward.

The council had previously endorsed the concept of the contract zone on Aug. 7, 2018; and a few weeks ago, on Nov. 20, the Planning Board unanimously voted to recommend the contract zone be approved.

With the approval of the contract zone, no other city approvals are needed to move forward with the project as the Planning Board has already approved the applicant’s final subdivision/site plan review application. Approvals from state and federal agencies are still pending.

A contract zone is needed for the apartment complex because multifamily dwelling units are not permitted in the Industrial-3 zone, where a portion of the property is located, and because the density for the project is higher than allowed.

A 250-unit apartment building is being planned to be located on Barra Road in Biddeford. The City Council approved a contract zone for the project on Dec. 5 Dina Mendros photo

The project is to be built on a more than 10-acre vacant parcel located in both the Industrial-3 and Residential-3 zones currently owned by Sawmill Park Properties, LLC. The land is to be sold to Saxon Partners, of Hingham, Massachusetts, who will develop the project.

“The housing would be market rate and would consist of studios and 1-bedroom units,” City Planner Greg Tansley said in an April 25 memo to Planning Board members. “According to the applicant, such a project can serve the workforce of Biddeford that desire to be close to the medical, retail, and commercial opportunities in the Route 111/Alfred Street area of Biddeford, as well as being close to the Turnpike and employment opportunities elsewhere.”

Councilor Stephen St. Cyr said he was concerned that the project would consist of only studio and one-bedroom apartments.

“The community as a whole has a greater need for two- and three-unit apartments,” he said. 

The company is “focused on providing housing for medical employees,” said Tom Greco of Saxon Partners on Dec. 5. “We don’t anticipate too many families in these units. … People want a certain price point, to hit that pricing that’s what works, studios and one-bedrooms.”

Saxon Partners develops both commercial and residential properties and, according to its website. It has a multifamily development program “designed to provide attractive workforce housing adjacent in underserved markets across the country, with an initial footprint spanning from Maine to Florida and from Maryland to Kansas,” according to the website. “This program features apartment communities designed with great efficiency and located in close proximity to the workplace in order to provide an attractive balance of lifestyle, convenience and value.”

Between the Barra Road project and development taking place in the mill district St. Cyr said the city will see a net gain of about 500 new apartment units in the next year or two, many of which will be smaller units. That “tilts the city more toward rental units,” he said, adding that he would like to seem more larger units and more ownership of units, such as condominiums.

“There has to be some further consideration of what that looks like going forward,” St. Cyr said.

The project, which constitutes a major subdivision, will include 300 parking spaces, 50 more than the 250 required spots.

One condition of the project is to pay the city up to $56,000 for sewer infrastructure upgrades if they are needed.

The contract zone was approved 8-1. Councilor John McCurry voted in opposition, saying he felt a zone change would have been more appropriate.

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