2016-12-01 / Neighbors

Church redevelopment continues with resistance

By Anthony Aloisio
Staff Writer

SACO – The final approval of the contract zone agreement for Cutts Avenue, LLC, which plans to redevelop Notre Dame de Lourdes Church into housing, went forward with resistance from multiple councilors.

The final version, approved at the Nov. 21 meeting, included two amendments. The first eliminated the section that relieved the parking requirement to 33 spaces, as Cutts Avenue, LLC representative Frank Carr discussed with the council at its Nov. 7 meeting. The second amendment, introduced by Ward 4 Councilor Kevin Roche, requires the developer to provide either an additional 25 parking spaces or access to three Zipcars (or other on-demand self-service transportation options). The requirement for Zipcars or extra spaces would not become effective until the last stage of the development.

The final vote was 5-2, with Councilors Eric Cote and Nathan Johnston against the agreement.

“It just should be a smaller project,” Cote said. “It should be a 44- to 45-unit project.”

Johnston worried that parking impact would ultimately be borne by taxpayers.

“We added additional parking on Water Street so that (a) huge housing complex could have added parking,” Johnston said. “Should we ask taxpayers to pay? Because that’s what I foresee happening. At some point we end up with a parking garage, kind of like the city of Biddeford is looking at. And who’s gonna pay for that? The citizens of Biddeford.”

As reported on page 1 this issue of the Courier, Biddeford has discussed developing a parking garage and ideas about funding so far have focused on user fees and tax increment financing (TIF) funds.

Roche voted for the agreement, but said that a debate about TIF relative to the Cutts Avenue development was coming up.

“We need to know this stuff up front so we can make – we’re working on our comprehensive plan right now–to make sure we have a strategy for our downtown,” Roche said. “We’ve been down this road before, of individual downtown TIFs that don’t work out for us. We need to be smart.”

Contact Staff Writer Anthony Aloisio at news@inthecourier.com.

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