Last week’s overwhelming defeat at the polls of a proposed affordable housing project on Drowne Road in Cumberland leaves the town with one project with some affordable housing on the table.

That project, proposed for West Cumberland and in its initial stages pre-Planning Board review, calls for 72 single-family homes, 30 of which would be considered affordable.

“In terms of projects, it doesn’t leave us in a great spot,” Town Council Chair Mark Segrist said. “It’s going to be difficult to make a meaningful dent in the affordable housing crisis.”

If the West Cumberland project also fails, the town will have to take a serious look at how to move forward with affordable housing, he said.

“I have some serious concerns right now,” he said. “We need to figure out what it means when voters say they support affordable housing, just not here and not now.”

Voters in Cumberland on March 5 rejected the Drowne Road project 2,545 to 1,162. The project would have allowed for three 3-story buildings, which would have included 71 one-bedroom apartments, 36 of which would have been reserved for seniors, as well as 21 two-bedroom units and 15 three-bedroom units for all ages.


The apartments would have been reserved for households earning less than 60% of the area’s median income, which would be about $70,000 per household. Rents would have been between $1,332 to $1,845 depending on the size of the apartments.

“I was disheartened by the results, but I also understand there are a lot of voters who had concerns about the project, and they came out in droves,” Segrist said.

Opponents cited concerns about increasing the student population in a community already struggling with an overcrowded school, land use issues and elevated taxes.

Councilor Shirley Storey-King, who opposed the Drowne Road project because of its size and tax implications, did not reply to a Forecaster request for comment.

“Affordable housing will always be a challenge and a real plan needs to be addressed,” Town Manager Bill Shane told The Forecaster.

Shane said a first step will be developing a new Comprehensive Plan update and vision for the town, he said.

The town’s 2014 Comprehensive Plan update says the town should “make available quality affordable housing for people of all income levels.”

The town has the third highest tax rate in Cumberland County, Shane noted.

“We have a great school system, 1,000 acres of open space, parks and miles of trails and a rural character that has been maintained even through significant decades of growth,” Shane said. “We need to find a way forward that helps bring down a high tax rate” to make the town more affordable.

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