The developers of a proposed affordable housing project for people with disabilities are seeking a waiver of the town of Scarborough’s parking lot requirements. The project would be located at The Downs. Contributed rendering / 3i HoMe

A proposed 51-unit affordable housing development at The Downs for people with physical disabilities poses new challenges for the Scarborough Planning Board, which hasn’t come across a project of its kind before.

It is also new territory for the developers as they work to address Planning Board concerns as part of the approval process.

“This is a unique development. It’s really tough to find comparative developments around the nation, let alone the Northeast,” Drew Gagnon, a design engineer for Gorrill Palmer, told the Planning Board at a meeting Monday.

Topsham-based nonprofit 3i Housing of Maine has partnered with designers, architects and residential management companies in the region on the proposal, which calls for a four-story building with 31 one-bedroom, 16 two-bedroom, and four three-bedroom apartments. They would be reserved for people with disabilities who make 50-60% or below the area median income.

The apartments would be equipped with technology for the disabled residents that would allow them, for example, to open doors and operate electronics by voice command. The first floor of the building would also house offices, space for support services and multi-purpose rooms.

The size of an on-site parking lot has been a consistent concern of the Planning Board.


A 51-unit multifamily development in Scarborough requires 87 on-site parking spaces, but given 3i Housing’s small lot size, the specific function of the multifamily development and the fact that many of its residents likely won’t have cars, board members and developers agree a waiver for fewer spaces is appropriate. However, the appropriate number of spaces is a sticking point.

Developers originally proposed 41 parking spaces, but after receiving board feedback at previous meetings, presented a plan Monday for 51 spaces, one per unit.

“We heard the board’s concerns and we found a way to add 10,” Gagnon said. “We feel like this is more than enough.”

One similar development in the Greater Boston area has 0.6 parking spaces per unit, he said.

Many of the spaces in 3i Housing’s parking lot would be for vans equipped to transport someone with mobility issues. Smaller spaces may be used by housemates and visitors of the residents as well as staff.

A large, landscaped buffer with wide sidewalks and a garden planned between the parking lot and the building is “very intentional,” said Nick Aceto of Aceto Landscape Architects, who is involved in the project.


“Normally you’d see a curb and a small sidewalk and a very small planted buffer,” Aceto told the board. “The idea is we’re eliminating barriers, we’re making it very seamless for someone to flow between the site and building.”

Board Chairperson Rachel Hendrickson said to receive approval for a waiver, the developers must show alternatives that include more parking. An alternative design could become part of the final project or be used to show why a smaller lot is adequate. Developers said they would provide those plans ahead of a future meeting between the two parties.

The board’s other parking concerns included whether a smaller lot could handle holiday events at the building, and how a small lot would impact snowplowing operations. Also, because the lot would be in the downtown portion of The Downs development, members questioned how developers would prevent non-residents from parking there.

Board Member Jennifer Ladd appreciated the developers’ unique approach to the project and encouraged more of it.

“I recognize in a traditional site plan process we would ask applicants, as we have of you tonight, to take a look at (alternatives),” she said. “Given what I’m sensing is a creative approach to this project, I would ask that maybe you think about that in a creative way, too.”

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