Housing contract zoning moves closer to town vote in Kingfield

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KINGFIELD – More than 2 dozen people were in attendance Thursday evening for an informational meeting hosted by Western Maine Mountain Housing. The purpose of the meeting was to inform the public on a proposed workforce housing project that requires approval from the town due to contract zoning. It was the final scheduled meeting held in anticipation of the March 5 municipal vote.

Contract zoning was approved at the June 2023 town meeting. It allows the town to consider changes to the zoning ordinances for specific projects. The changes necessary for the housing project include setbacks, height, density, square footage of lots, and the number and size of parking spaces.


A concept design of the proposed housing development from the WMMH website.


In addition to Executive Director Mark Green of Carrabassett Valley, several board members were present including Ryan Reed of Kingfield, Lloyd Cuttler of Carrabassett Valley, Charlie Woodworth of Freeman Township and Tom Hildreth of Kingfield.

Green thanked the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board for the diligence and work it took to review the application and move the project forward so voters could make a decision.

A video produced by WMMH was shared with the audience. Green said the inspiration behind the video came from Island Workforce Housing. The Downeast non-profit completed its first 10-unit Deer Isle project in 2023.

In the video, WMMH board president John Beaupre explained, “We are an affordable, workforce housing initiative. That includes Eustis/Stratton, Carrabassett Valley, Kingfield and the surrounding communities. We are here to help people who have good jobs, who are working in the community, to find housing.”

“This isn’t a resort problem. This isn’t a community problem. This is a regional problem and, frankly, it is a state problem, it is a national problem but we are taking a proactive approach. About two years ago the Jordan family here in Kingfield entertained us buying a 7-acre plot over adjacent to the Dollar General. This mini community the coalition is hoping to build is going to be made up of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, townhomes and individual homes,” he continued.

Jed Whiting, board member and General Manager of Stratton Lumber said in the video, “This is not low-income housing, this is not Section 8 housing. This is something entirely different intended for folks that make a good living, that are part of the community. Ideally, our communities would champion these projects.”

Following the video, Green shared a timeline of the project. It began, he said, in December 2022 with a securing of a purchase and sale agreement of the land. “It was by far the best site we looked at in the region. It is close to amenities. It is close to stores, a health clinic, a library and post office. I think we can all agree the Kingfield village is the jewel of villages in our region.”

The coalition continued to look at other sites in Carrabassett Valley and in the Eustis area, and entered negotiations with Sugarloaf.

“We have a commitment from them to give us some land up there for a future project. There are some details still to work out,” he said, referring to Sugarloaf. “Our goal is to have at least one project in each of our member communities. As we were looking at land, we looked at zoning. None of the communities had the density zoning needed to build cost effective housing.”

Contract zoning opened the door for the Kingfield project to move forward.

Following the contract zoning vote, the coalition met with the project architect and Kingfield residents to put together a plan and application, which were presented to the planning board last summer.

“We spent the rest of the summer and most of the fall working with the planning board and then the board of selectmen on putting together a contract zone that was acceptable to them and, hopefully, acceptable to the town,” he continued. “What it allows is for a party like us to submit something that doesn’t necessarily follow the current zoning right the letter of the law but what you submit has to be compatible with the zoning uses allowed on that parcel and it has to be in compliance with the town comprehensive plan.”

A problem identified in the comprehensive plan is lack of affordable housing, he said. “That is why we were able to work with the planning board to show a contract zone was justified in Kingfield.”

At the Oct 16, 2023 Board of Selectmen meeting, Green proposed payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT). At the time, he estimated rent payments, based on that year’s data, would be $248,000 after vacancy allowances.He said that a 7% PILOT, that would equal about $17,000 for the town.

“It would actually probably be a little bit more,” he said at the time.

The board’s concern was adding children to the school district. Selectman Wade Browne said the town paid $22,000 per student to MSAD 58. Valuation would not increase initially because of the project because it was non-profit, he said. If successful, phase 2 would include single family homes and the owners would be responsible for taxes.

The board ultimately agreed to a 10% PILOT, which would equal $24,800 based on Green’s numbers at the time.

At Thursday’s meeting, Green said the PILOT would be approximately $15,000 paid to the town annually.
In January, selectmen set the municipal vote for March 5. It will be held in conjunction with the Presidential primary elections. Absentee ballots are currently available by contacting the Town Office.

The zoning changes necessary for the housing project include setbacks, height, density, square footage of lots, and the number and size of parking spaces. Voters will decide whether they are in favor of or against the zoning changes as a whole rather than on individual changes.

Green said WMMH was very hopeful the contract zoning would pass. If it does, the next step would be to submit a proposal to the planning board for phase one of the project, two 9-unit multi-family buildings consisting of one and two bedroom apartments.

“Our intent is to apply to a program called Rural Affordable Rental Housing Program. The program provides funding for housing that uses income guidelines of 80% of the area median income, which in Kingfield is about $42,450 for a single person household and about $60,600 for a four person housing,” he said.

The program stipulates that the project has to be affordable for at least 45 years. “So it maintains affordability,” he said. “I’ve learned that if you don’t do that, at the end of the 45 years, you have to pay back the loan.

The project would have to go through the planning board, just like any other developer with scheduled public hearings, he noted.

Phase two of the project would include approximately 10 single family homes, which would be for individuals and families earning up to 120% of the area median income. Phase two would hopefully be funded by another program. Those properties would be privately owned and would be subject to property taxation. These individual homes would have to deed covenants in place and would remain affordable forever, he explained.

“Our mission is to provide year-round housing. That is what we want to do, We want to bring people to our communities. We know there are people out there who want to live here who just can’t afford to live here. That is what we are trying to do,” Green said.

Resident Norman Goff inquired about property management. Green stated the plan was to hire an off-property professional manager. One of the requirements would be the manager have a Kingfield presence.

“One thing the planning board required us to do is to submit rules and regulations for the site,” Green explained. “We looked at what other entities had done. We think we put together a pretty tight set of rules and regulations. Our intent is to manage the property well and have good tenants. We know that is the only way we are going to be successful.”
Goff stated he had worked for the sheriff’s department for about 30 years. “There are a couple of apartments around the county and, for a while, they were a nightmare. I don’t want to see anything like that happen in Kingfield.”

Green said that there was nothing in the funding that required the project to accept anyone.

Green said because the project is located in Kingfield, housing would be advertised through local employers. “Our mission is workforce housing. We want workers there. My guess is that we are going to fill it up with Kingfield workers. We are going to check recommendations, we are going to check work history. There could in theory be someone who works seasonally at Maine Huts and Trails at Sugarloaf and then works in the summer at Longfellow’s. They are going to have to have sufficient income to pay the rent.”

“You probably couldn’t afford this on minimum wage unless you had a roommate but the total household income couldn’t exceed the AMI requirement,” he added.

“In some ways, we are a victim of our own success,” Cuttler said. “Forty years ago, everything rolled up in April and everyone ran to the coast to get a job because there was not enough work. What we have done is turned into a year-round area that has exacerbated this housing crisis because people aren’t leaving. It is not that we didn’t plan, it is that it worked too well. Now everybody stays. The emphasis here is workforce housing. That is the distinction; we set a bar. We have to acknowledge that there is a problem. It is not impossible to fix but it is going to take time and we are trying to address it in a respective manner.”

Editor’s Note: This is part one of two on the workforce housing development and upcoming vote in Kingfield.

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