The Cape Elizabeth resident behind a successful campaign to overturn zoning allowing affordable housing in the town center has launched a new petition drive, this one aimed at creating affordable housing at Gull Crest Fields.

Attorney Cynthia Dill’s new “Plan B” petition seeks another referendum to create a  “community housing” zone for low- and moderate-housing.  She’d like to see that zone applied to 10 acres at the town-owned Gull Crest recreation area.  If her petition is successful, voters would be asked to amend zoning ordinances to permit the new zone.

The petition, however, has its detractors, who question the feasibility of Dill’s vision for community housing at Gull Crest and are concerned the petition is misleading and plays on residents’ emotions about affordable housing.


The petition Dill certified last November, which she now calls “Plan A,” secured a residents’ vote on zoning amendments that were approved by the Town Council.  The amendments, which increased the maximum height and footprint of buildings in the town center, would have permitted the construction of Dunham Court, a 49-unit affordable housing development. The developer eventually withdrew the plans.

Among Dill’s arguments against Dunham Court was that it did not align with the town’s comprehensive plan for the town center and that it was unsuitable for families because it would offer mostly one-bedroom apartments.

That zoning referendum will be on the ballot this November.


Her new petition as of Wednesday has received 275 signatures. To force a “Plan B” referendum, at least 870 of the town’s registered voters, or 10% of the total, need to sign it, she said.

Some community members have questioned whether the signers are being misled.

There appears to be confusion about what exactly the petition does, said Kevin Justh, a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals who has over 20 years of experience in the commercial real estate field. After seeing questions about the petition from residents on Facebook, he made the website

“I think there’s been some misleading information that’s been put out there,” he said. “I thought it would be useful to have as much of a fact-based platform as possible.”

In his answers on the website to what he says are 17 frequently asked questions, Justh points out the specified purpose of the petition is not to develop an affordable housing complex because there is no proposal for such a project. Instead, its purpose is to “amend a single ordinance in the Cape Elizabeth Zoning Ordinance to define a new term, Community Housing.”

That definition is “housing on town-owned land restricted to residents with Low Income or Moderate Income, and to provide a unit density of 1 unit per 15,000 square feet of land as opposed to the current 1 unit per 66,000 square feet (or 80,000 square feet in subdivisions). In total, the site would support a maximum of 30 units,” Justh says on the website.


Former Town Councilor Jamie Garvin also is concerned residents signing the petition may think they are endorsing a specific project. He attended a public forum about the petition last month with an “open mind,” he said, but “really didn’t come away with” anything new.

“There really isn’t any specific plan,” Garvin said in an interview with The Forecaster.

There are also questions about the feasibility of the housing project Dill envisions.

“I have serious doubts that it’s feasible. I think there are significant limitations to it,” Justh said. “I would hope that the proponent would have put together some sort of plan, as it is called a plan, that it would have some details on how it was physically or financially possible.”

Dill, in an interview with The Forecaster, said if the proposed amendment is approved by voters in November, she would then hope the Town Council would put out a proposal for developers to “explore the feasibility” of community housing at Gull Crest.

“This is a small step,” she said of the petition. “Democracy at its core.”


Her “vision,” she said, is simply that the town look into putting affordable housing on the Gull Crest site, which served as the town’s “Poor Farm” and provided jobs and housing to the needy from 1831-1937, according to the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society.

“The vision is that on what I understand to be 77 acres of land that was left to the town of Cape Elizabeth in 1825 by Thomas Jordan for the purpose of providing housing for people without means, that we explore developing a neighborhood of community housing, defined in the zoning ordinance, if Plan B passes, as multiplex housing,” she said.

Garvin is also concerned that, in tandem with the referendum already slotted for November, a second referendum question could create a “permission structure.”

“Basically, people that don’t want to feel bad voting against affordable housing by overturning the council’s vote can then sort of balance that out and feel OK that they’re voting for something,” he said. “Even though the thing they’re voting for doesn’t have much potential of happening.”


Comments are not available on this story.