Cape Elizabeth voters narrowly struck down controversial town-center zoning amendments Tuesday, by a vote of 3,090 to 2,888.

The zoning amendments were passed by the Town Council in October 2021 and were designed to permit Dunham Court, a proposed four-story apartment building with affordable units, to be built next to the Town Hall. Cape Elizabeth resident Cynthia Dill led a successful petition drive for a citizen referendum to overturn the amendments.

Dill said Thursday she was “delighted” with the outcome of the vote.

“Moving forward, it’s my hope the housing committee takes up the idea of Community Housing, which I have presented to it, as well as considers other options that reflect the values of our beautiful town,” she said in an email to The Forecaster.

Dill believes the Dunham Court project, which the developer withdrew from consideration in the face of public opposition, was unsuitable for families because many of the planned affordable units had only one bedroom. Nor was it suitable for Cape Elizabeth’s workforce, she said, such as police officers and firefighters, because they would not meet income qualifications.

Dill also thinks the amendments did not align with the town’s comprehensive plan which calls for a “vibrant” town center.


Jamie Garvin, a former town councilor who was chairperson when the amendments were discussed and voted on, has remained vocal in supporting them.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed in the outcome,” he said in an email to The Forecaster on Wednesday. “I think the number of yes votes and narrow margin shows there is certainly support for affordable housing in general, which is a positive takeaway.”

However, based on conversations he had prior to the election, Garvin believes there was “some confusion among voters” about whether there was still a development slated for the town-center district and how it aligns with a new state law, LD 2003, designed to create more affordable housing.

“Ultimately, I think the work being undertaken by the ad hoc Housing Diversity Committee will bring about recommendations on a range of policy changes the Town Council will need to consider, and hopefully enact, if we’re really going to make any progress on creating more types of, and more affordable, housing options in Cape Elizabeth,” he said.

The overturned amendments applied to affordable housing developments in the town-center district consisting of 10 or more residential units. Under the amendments, a minimum of 70% of those units would have been required to be affordable to low-income households for at least 45 years. The amendments also would have increased the maximum building height from 35 to 45 feet, the density of units permitted in the district from 3,000 to 1,500 square feet, and the maximum footprint of a building from 5,000 to 12,000 square feet. In addition, the amendments would eliminate the current requirement of providing commercial space on the first floor and reduce the number of off-street parking spaces required.

Voter turnout Tuesday in Cape Elizabeth was about 71%, according to the town clerk’s office.

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