Dunham Court

The Cape Elizabeth Town Council will vote on ordinance changes Oct. 13 that would pave the way for Szanton Co.’s proposed Dunham Court, a four-story affordable housing project, pictured in the rendering above, in the town center. Contributed rendering / Szanton Co.

Cape Elizabeth residents reiterated their opinions for and against a proposed affordable housing project in the town center Monday, a month before the town council is scheduled to vote on an amendment that would allow the project to be built.

“It has been too long since our town has added affordable housing,” said Maureen Clancy of Hemlock Hill Road. “It is currently so needed in our town and region.”

It has been nearly 50 years since Cape Elizabeth has undertaken an affordable housing project. The Szanton Company’s $13.5 million proposal for a 49-unit apartment building next to Town Hall overlooking the new Village Green has been a source of divide between Cape Elizabeth residents this summer.

While most residents agree the town is in need of affordable housing, the location is the main source of debate.

Some argue that the central location for the project is perfect as it allows easy access to schools and essential stores like the nearby CVS pharmacy, but others have a different vision of their town center.

“Back in 2014, the town did a master plan for the town center,” said Jeff Holden, a Cape Elizabeth resident. “It was viewed that the town center would be for other uses than affordable housing.”

The Town Center 2014 Plan called for a “vibrant town center that includes mixed retail uses for residents and visitors.” The plan also called for a common meeting place, that its visual appeal was vital, and that the town center be a safe place for pedestrians and cyclists.

The council has scheduled a Sept. 29 workshop on the project and an Oct. 13 vote on the proposed Town Center Affordable Housing Amendment, which would allow for the project’s height, non-commercial first-floor use and a reduced number of parking spaces.

Nathan Szanton and Kristin Martin of Szanton Company made their proposal for the affordable housing project in February.  Dunham Court would be next to the Town Hall and overlook the new Village Green. It would be 44 feet high, which is taller than ordinances permit.

The amendment proposed Aug. 3 allows that a building located at least 200 feet from a road may have a maximum height of 45 feet and have affordable housing or related support services on the first floor. It reduces off-street parking for housing developments where at least 70% of the units in the building are affordable to low-income families.

“Affordable housing is where the rubber meets the road in terms of poverty and inequality,” said Bobby Monks, a Cape Elizabeth resident and Szanton Co. partner for nearly 20 years. “Perhaps this project can be a model as more and more affordable housing projects move into the suburbs.”

Dunham Court

Dunham Court would be built next to Cape Elizabeth’s Town Hall, at left. Contributed / The Szanton Company

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