The proposed Drowne Road affordable housing development would have red and white apartment buildings to reflect Cumberland’s barns and farmhouses. Contributed / Westbrook Development Corporation

The Cumberland Town Council voted Monday to move forward with plans for a three-building affordable housing complex on Drowne Road.

The vote was 5-1, with Councilor Shirley Storey-King opposed and Councilor Michael Edes absent, to enter into a preliminary agreement with the Westbrook Development Corporation, which has developed housing projects in Westbrook and one in Portland. The nonprofit developer was the sole group to respond to an August request from the town for proposals to fund, build and operate the apartments on Drowne Road.

“Westbrook Development Corporation is developing this project with state and federal funds they feel they can achieve,” Town Manager Bill Shane said.

A townwide referendum on the project could be held in March.

Plans call for three 3-story buildings that would include 71 one-bedroom apartments, 36 of which would be reserved for seniors, and 21 two- bedroom and 15 three-bedroom units for all ages.

The apartments would be reserved for households earning less than 60% of area’s median income, $49,740 to $70,980 a year depending the number of people in the household. Rents would between $1,332 and $1,845 depending on the size of the apartments.


“We’re an expensive community to live in, and there’s no hiding that,” Shane said. “We have a crisis.”

In 2023, 80 houses were sold in Cumberland, Shane said, and only eight of those were under $400,000, which is considered “affordable” in Cumberland.

“How the heck is anyone going to live here?” he asked.

Residents living near or on Drowne Road said Monday said an increase in traffic resulting from the development is one of their main concerns. The neighborhood is already used as a shortcut to avoid the center of town, they said.

“We’re in favor of affordable housing, but not at this location,” Katherine Pelletreau said.

David Niklaus said he wants to see affordable housing in Cumberland, too, but not at the former Drowne Road Little League fields.


“We’re a walking neighborhood,” Niklaus said. “This is a road where kids learn to ride their bicycles.”

A member of the Affordable Housing Committee, Gail Witherill, said the location was chosen in part because the town already owns the land, making the project less costly.

“The nice thing I’ve heard tonight is everyone supports affordable housing,” resident Ron Bancroft said. “That’s terrific, that must mean that we can move forward.”

The Town Council will hold three meetings with residents at Val Halla in early 2024 to discuss the project in advance of a potential March referendum.  The first community meeting is scheduled for Jan. 18.

“No one on this council has anything to gain from approving this project,” Councilor Ronald Copp said. “Let’s let the people in this town vote and tell us it’s a good project or it’s not a good project.”

The council will have more details on the referendum at its Jan. 8 meeting, Shane said Tuesday.

Councilor Shirley Storey-King was the only member to vote against entering into a memorandum of understanding Monday night.

“I’m not against affordability, I just don’t think it’s our problem to solve in this way at this time,” she said.

Westbrook Development Corporation works “in tandem with city officials, civic leaders,  neighborhoods, and residents to create housing options of their choice,” according to its website.

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