KENNEBUNK — A plan to construct more affordable housing in Kennebunk secured a win on Jan. 9.

The Kennebunk Select Board decided that a proposed contract zone agreement will appear on the March 5 ballot. If approved by voters, the proposal would allow Kennebunk Savings Bank to use land it owns on Alewive Park Road for a 70-unit affordable housing development for older Mainers.

A more detailed plan would still go through a separate Planning Board approval process even if voters green light the contract zone.

The Select Board issued a swift sign-off on the proposal — in stark contrast with another proposed contract zone agreement on the agenda, which the board and the public discussed for multiple hours. That second proposal concerned the Wedding Cake House and whether or not the house’s owners can operate the property as an inn and community event space.

“From my perspective, a contract zone has a pretty heavy burden before I get to yes on it, which I think the previous one met,” said Select Board Chair Shiloh Schulte toward the end of the evening, speaking of Kennebunk Savings Bank’s proposal.

The bank first submitted an initial proposal to the Planning Board in February 2023, but later withdrew and resubmitted a revised proposal that spring. Over the summer, the town held a public hearing on the proposal where some residents expressed reservations around the project, raising concerns like increased noise and changes to the character of the neighborhood.


These concerns were assuaged during the public hearing and at a public outreach meeting held by Kennebunk Savings Bank in September, according to a November memo from Town Planner Brittany Howard.

The contract zone would see Kennebunk Savings Bank divide a 41-acre parcel in the Industrial Zoning District into three parts. One section would continue to hold the bank’s operations center, a second would have two affordable housing units — with 35 units each, and a third would remain open space. The section of open space has a connection to the Eastern Trail.

The housing development would be operated by Avesta Housing, the largest affordable housing developer in Maine. If the contract zone is approved by voters and eventually constructed, this would be the fourth property operated by Avesta in Kennebunk.

The proposed housing would be available to people who are 55 or older and make up to 60 percent of area median income.

Kennebunk Savings Bank purchased the plot in 2014 and turned a pre-existing building on the parcel into their operations center there, but the surrounding land has sat unused.

Kennebunk Savings Bank CEO and President Bradford Paige told the Press Herald in July 2023 that he was motivated to do something worthwhile with the undeveloped land, which prompted the bank to partner with Avesta Housing on an affordable housing project.


At the Jan. 9 Select Board meeting, Kristen Miale, the former president of the Good Shepherd Food Bank spoke in favor of the proposal. Her time at the food bank had shown her the importance of providing quality affordable housing for lower income older adults, she said. But she also endorsed the project based on her mother’s positive experience living in Kennebunk as an older person.

Former president of the Good Shepherd Food Bank Kristen Miale spoke in favor of a plan that would clear the way for more affordable housing in Kennebunk at the Jan. 9 Select Board meeting. Eloise Goldsmith photo

“I have seen how this community connection has kept my mom vibrant and given her a sense of connection with others. My mom was fortunate that she could afford to live here. And I believe providing more older adults with the opportunity to experience being part of our community is something we should do, especially when we have the generous financial support from an anchor institution like Kennebunk Savings Bank,” Miale said.

In addition to supporting the community with grants and funding opportunities, Kennebunk Savings Bank is one of the biggest employers in Kennebunk. The operations center at 7 Alewive Park Road has about 150 administrative employees.

Avesta’s Senior Officer of Policy & Planning Ryan Fecteau spoke highly of Kennebunk Savings Bank as a partner in the endeavor. The bank “see(s) how important housing is to the stability of our communities and the ability it gives everyday people to thrive,” he said.

“Older adults are being particularly acutely hit with increased housing costs, so I think the 55-plus (age restriction) made sense for the community,” he added.

Maine has the oldest population in the United States, with a median age of 44.7 years old. In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau projected that the number of people over 60 will comprise more than 31 percent of the state population by 2030. Meanwhile, a report from multiple state agencies released last year found that Maine’s coastal region — where Kennebunk is located — needs to construct up to 49,200 homes in order to counteract historic lack of production and population growth by 2030.


Much of the public conversation around Maine’s housing crisis has focused on first time homebuyers and young professionals who can’t enter the housing market, but older Mainers looking to remain in their communities, many of whom are on fixed incomes, also face challenges to finding affordable housing.

Lack of overall supply is an issue, as is accessibility. According to a Census Bureau report from 2019, only 19.6 percent of New England homes are “aging-ready” — the smallest percentage of any other region in the country. The study defined aging ready households as having at least the three most basic accessible design elements: an entryway without a step and bedroom and full bathroom on the first floor of the home.

We need “to build housing for all ages, and older adults are certainly a key demographic,” said Fecteau.


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: