Comp Plan Minutes: 5/6/19 (Housing, Development and Neglected Buildings)

AUGUSTA COMPREHENSIVE PLAN COMMITTEE

MINUTES

Eighth Meeting – Housing, Development and Neglected Buildings

Monday, May 6, 2019 at 6pm

Fort Western Learning Gallery at City Center

Meeting called to order at 6:01pm.

In attendance: Heather Pouliot, Bob Corey, Duane Scott, Kevin Lind, Matt Nazar, Katie Smith, Melanie Baillargeon, Kim Silsby, Theresa Violette, Dale McCormick, Kevin Judkins, Richard Barnes, Mary Owen, Amanda Olsen, Cheryl Clukey, Roberta Record, Dan (did not get last name), and others not identified or signed in.

Welcome remarks and committee introductions:

Members of the public are welcome to share their ideas regarding the future of the any aspect of the city as it relates to housing, development and neglected buildings  our community. 

Overview of the 2007 comprehensive plan as it relates to housing, development and neglected buildings in Augusta by Matt Nazar:

  • 2007 comp plan has a lot on housing.
  • Augusta is a service center community.
  • Augusta has 9,500 housing units (½ are rental and ½ are owner-occupied).
  • Augusta is very different to neighboring communities, but not different for a city.
  • Augusta has older housing stock. This means homes have challenges, quality is in need of improvement.
  • All of this was exacerbated by the 2008 economic recession – we saw increased foreclosures, turnovers on properties, maintenance issues, and many vacant properties.
  • The recovery has been slow since then, but we are probably considered fully recovered.
  • In 2007, downtown had one resident. Now, there are over 50 residents and many more units planned. This is Augusta’s newest neighborhood development.
  • Fieldstone was just getting underway in 2007 – now it has 25 unites with more planned.
  • In Augusta, the single family housing stock is considered affordable.
  • The renter-occupied is not.
  • This creates issues to maintain properties if renters cannot afford the current costs.
  • AugustaHousing is helping address this issue with their developments – Hodgkins Apartments and Maple Street units.
  • Cony Flatiron development is also new since 2007.
  • The city still has ongoing codes issues in ensuring clean, safe structures.
  • Over the years, this has been addressed through code violations or town down.
  • However, it is still an issue.
  • In 2007, the previous housing development in the city was the Ganneston neighborhood years prior.
  • Since 2007, we have also seen the developments of higher-end single family units at the end of Windy and Glen Streets.
  • Cony Village.
  • Dilapidated housing continues to be a problem around the city. 
  • These are usually foreclosed properties owned by out-of-state banks – literally forgotten properties.
  • These properties continue to be a nuisance, an eyesore, and a haven for crime.
  • The city does have a committee to deal with acquired real estate and getting it back on the tax rolls.

Public opportunity to identify concerns/suggestions that they want addressed within the comprehensive plan:

Dale McCormick, resident of historic westside neighborhood: allow for the development of tiny houses; update ordinances; encourage mother-in-law apartments; MaineHousing may be a resource.

Theresa Violette, Title 1 Director for Augusta School Department: works with homeless student population; 78 children currently considered homeless in Augusta; many children are on the waiting list for housing; they end up going to the shelter or double up with another family; work closely with New Beginnings.

Kevin Judkins, Ward 2 city councilor: how many dilapidated buildings do we have?

Matt Nazar: there are about 6-12 buildings ongoing.

Kevin: the city has a vacant property registry ordinance and a property maintenance ordinance. 

Richard Barnes, resident and property owner on eastside: need to build out water and sewer on the eastside to encourage more development; the city would see more development and growth if we did this.

Matt: GAUD may be limited in speculative development. However, a developer could pay for this build-out. There could also be partnership. Augusta Board of Trade? 

Mary Owen, resident of historic westside neighborhood: can we do receivership on vacant properties? MA has done this through their Attorney General. 

Amanda Olsen, resident and Director of Augusta Housing Authority: the authority develops new affordable housing – section 8; they oversee a safety and small repair program for residents 55 years of age and older or disabled; this allows for people to age in place; there is a huge need for affordable housing; they developed 47 units at Hodgkins Apartments; creating 29 workforce units at Maple Street; Augusta has the highest need for senior and affordable housing; the ability for the authority to utilize city-owned property for development is a huge benefit; TIF’s are important; replenishment of stock is not in pace with the need; finding a gap in moderate-income range; also seeing a need for housing for homeless youth and larger families; need housing for retail workers; current waitlist is 9 years; affordable subdivision program may be coming back to MaineHousing; would like to collaborate with downtown; also mentioned that Capital Village on Leighton Road was a housing development since the 2007 comp plan.

Cheryl Clukey, resident of historic westside neighborhood: do developers contribute to the tax base? Is Augusta at a tipping point for who pays taxes?

Kevin Judkins: city council is addressing many of these issues.

Dan (did not get last name), lives on westside: has new neighbors who moved into old home because that is what they were looking for; the city should build upon historic preservation; look into ADU, alternate dwelling units; working class are looking elsewhere outside of Augusta; we have transparent residents; need safer neighborhoods; consider airBnB. 

Committee discussion on housing, development, neglected buildings, and other related items:

Bob: does the city consider properties for a park before selling?

Matt: yes.

Bob: city needs incentives for development.

Matt: city has proposal for 250-unit workforce housing development next to Elks Club focused on single bedroom for hospital staff and traveling professionals.

Bob: how do we get condos developed on the riverfront?

Darek: would like to see the comp plan really focus on revitalization of housing on “The Hill.” 

Other committee matters:

None.

Next meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 20, 2019 at 6pm. The meeting will be held at Cony High School and the focus is on education and schools.

Adjourned.

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