GORHAM — A deadlocked Town Council vote Tuesday defeated a move to reconsider last month’s approval of a first step toward allowing a proposed senior housing project in South Gorham.

Developer Hans Hansen is seeking approval to build 15 homes for senior citizens at his business park at the intersection of County Road (Route 22) and South Street (Route 114). The Town Council Dec. 3 forwarded to its Ordinance Committee a request to review amending Hansen’s contract zone for the project. The 4-2 vote was opposed by Chairwoman Suzanne Phillips and Town Councilor Lee Pratt.

Hans Hansen and Bill Walsh of Walsh Engineering hope to build senior housing in South Gorham. Robert Lowell / American Journal

This week, Town Councilor Benjamin Hartwell sponsored an agenda item to reconsider the matter. The six-member board voted 3-3 to reconsider, with Councilors Jim Hager and Virginia Wilder Cross and Town Council Vice Chairman Ron Shepard against reconsideration.

Favoring reconsideration were Phillips and Pratt along with Hartwell, who had earlier supported the amendment review.

“In my opinion, the comprehensive plan says that we should stick with the current contract zones until we create a master plan for the area,” Hartwell said Wednesday in an email to the American Journal. “I was always opposed to rezoning the area piecemeal through contract zones; supporting an amendment to a contract zone there was inconsistent with how I voted in the past.”

Hansen’s business park includes a Cumberland Farms store, a daycare center and a primary care medical facility. A credit union is also interested in the site.

Meanwhile, Hansen claims his existing contract zone agreement doesn’t need amending to allow the housing project.

“I’ll eat that paper, if I’m wrong,” Hansen said.

A letter Dec. 31 to the town from Tom Greer of Walsh Engineering Associates in Westbrook, representing Hansen, cited language in Hansen’s existing contract with the town: “Whereas, a portion of the property is located in an area shown on the Revised Land Use Plan in the Comprehensive Plan as Neighborhood Center which calls for a mix of land uses in these centers including residential uses.”

“It does call for residential uses,” Bill Walsh of Walsh Engineering said from the public podium at Tuesday’s meeting.

Greer also wrote that a credit union is interested in a front lot at the business park and believes contract zone changes would be needed to allow for location of a drive-thru and for an architectural change to a modern design from traditional New England architecture.

“We very much want the opportunity to work with the Ordinance Review Committee to develop a better utilization for our site,” Greer wrote.

Following an Ordinance Committee review, the Town Council could send a proposed contract zone amendment to the Planning Board for a public hearing and its recommendation. Then, the Town Council would have the ultimate decision on approval.

The Town Council has a vacancy after denying to sit Janet Kuech, who is a School Department employee, following the November election and the matter is now in court. The empty seat led to the tie vote this week.

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