The four candidates vying for three open seats on the Cape Elizabeth Town Council are divided on whether the council should approve zoning amendments and a special tax district for the affordable housing apartments proposed for the town center.

Incumbent Jeremy Gabrielson and candidate Victoria Volent are in favor of the amendments to get the controversial $13.5 million Dunham Court project rolling. Candidates Susan Gillis and Timothy Reiniger are opposed.

All three seats are at-large and are three-year terms. With four candidates, only one will not be elected Nov. 2.

Gabrielson said the amendments, which would allow for the project’s height, non-commercial first-floor use and a reduced number of parking spaces, are “fairly, narrowly tailored and reasonable amendments to our town center district.”

Those amendments are currently scheduled to go to a vote on Oct. 13. While that is before the Nov. 2 election, those elected will have the opportunity to shape affordable housing in Cape Elizabeth moving forward.

The Dunham Court project meets some people’s needs and that it is a good contrast to the overwhelming number of single-family houses in town, Gabrielson said. However, he also intends to look at different types of affordable housing moving forward.

“Fewer and fewer of us are living in one house for all of our adult life,” he said. “We need to have the diversity of housing options that’s going to work for different people when they’re at different stages of their life.”

Volent said the zoning amendments are necessary to “ensure the community provides housing for a diverse socioeconomic population.”

She’d also support a committee being established to “address this issue and look into it deeper.”

“Whatever we end up doing, I do want to make sure that it is thoughtful growth,” Volent said. “While still protecting that which we care most about in Cape Elizabeth, which is the open spaces.”

Gillis said the Dunham Court project doesn’t line up with the town’s comprehensive plan.

“Nobody’s against affordable housing,” she said. “The fact that we’re being categorized as that is really angering a lot of residents.”

She, like many residents, she said, simply do not want to see a four-story apartment building in the middle of town. She believes that affordable housing should come in a different form.

“Affordable housing, to me, in Cape Elizabeth would be housing that families could live in with two or three bedrooms,” she said. “Single-unit apartments aren’t really affordable for families.”

Reiniger opposes the zoning amendments and the proposal to give the project tax breaks by setting up the special district.

“For a TIF (tax increment financing), the intent is to devote it to public infrastructure and improvements, not for a private developer, for-profit or one development,” he said. “My recommendation would be that the town use TIF in other ways.”

Cape Elizabeth should stick to the plan of bringing more commercial buildings into the town’s center, he said. He likes the idea of having the first floor of a building reserved for commercial use with housing above.

Reiniger emphasized that, in solving the affordable housing issue, he will “promote home ownership” over apartment rentals.

“It’s lower density, it fits better with the historic farming community,” he said.

Residents will vote at the Cape Elizabeth High School gymnasium between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

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