Cumberland Town Councilors Michael Edes, left, Baily Douglass, Mark Segrist, Tig Filson and Robert Vail listen Monday to residents’ comments on an affordable housing development planned for Drowne Road. Sydney Richelieu / The Forecaster

The Cumberland Town Council voted 5-2 Monday night to seek proposals from developers for an affordable housing project on Drowne Road.

The vote followed a public hearing attended by at least 50 residents, who were divided on the town’s affordable housing plan for the 2.5 acres in Cumberland Center. Some said they welcomed diverse housing, while others were concerned about the tax impact of the project.

Until developers submit proposals, Council Chairperson Mark Segrist said, the council cannot provide answers on the potential cost of the project to the town, the tax impact or other details, a point he reiterated throughout the meeting. Early plans called for two buildings with a total of 110 units. Two other affordable housing projects in town are proposed for Cumberland Foreside and West Cumberland.

“I understand there’s a need for affordable housing in this town, and we don’t want to build just anything,” said Segrist, who was council liaison on the town’s 12-member Housing Task Force Advisory Committee.

Resident Greg Sweetser, whose family has lived in town for generations, said that having diverse housing is a “great” idea.

“You’re looking at creating a diverse community in many ways,” Sweetser said. “Creating affordable housing is very important.”


Other residents in support of the project said they hope teachers, firefighters and EMTs who work in Cumberland will soon be able to live there, too.

“It’s very difficult to hire and retain teachers and ed techs if they can’t afford to live here,” SAD 51 School Board member Christina Mitchell said.

Eligibility for the Drowne Road project would be determined by average median income, or AMI. The town considers a housing unit that rents at 60% AMI to be affordable, which is roughly around $1,100 a month in Cumberland.

Some residents said that between the new elementary school project on the table and the affordable housing project they are worried they won’t be able to afford the resulting higher taxes.

Joyce Baughan asked the council not to send out the request for proposals.

“We do not know what the impact will be on our taxes,” Baughan said.


While taxes were on the forefront of many residents’ comments, some residents also expressed concerns about maintaining the quiet, small-town feel of Cumberland.

“Cumberland is not Westbrook or South Portland or Biddeford,” Bruce Sherwin said. “We have built Cumberland as an exclusive place to live.”

Councilors Shirley Storey-King and Michael Edes voted against seeking proposals from developers. Storey-King said she needed more information about the request.

“I’m not for closing our borders. I’m not for keeping people out,” Storey-King said. “When you see me oppose the (request for proposals), we have not had enough conversation.”

The council set a Nov. 2 deadline for proposals. It will hold its first of a number of public meetings on affordable housing in early January.

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