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Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 9, 2014
Affordable housing language last piece in Shore Road cluster housing project?
Planning Board may vote in January

by Anne Berleant

Doug Koos, who plans to build eight two-family units off The Shore Road, within his mobile home park, has submitted a “very thorough, complete application,” said planning board members at their December 12 meeting.

The site plan review will likely be voted on at the January 9 meeting.

“We’re going to approve the project,” said board member Tom Comiciotto, “as long as we [operate] within the confines [of the ordinance.]”

The overall project was approved in concept as contract zoning by the board and at town meeting last year. One condition is that eight units will be deeded as “affordable housing.”

“The town has granted [Koos] somewhat of a variance” based on affordable housing, board member Bob Friedlander said.

At the meeting, Koos submitted to the board specific language that would fulfill that condition, as follows:

“Upon request from the town manager, for a period of 20 years from the date of occupancy: The owning party of the contract zone shall submit a report from an independent third party (an independent accountant office) to verify that the income of the lessees in ‘at least eight of the units is not greater than 125 percent of Hancock County median income.’ Failure to submit such request within 90 days of said request shall result in the owning entity being in violation of the terms of the said Contract Zone.”

Koos wrote to the board that “the attorneys can agree on some sort of punishment for violation of this.” The independent accountant would send a compliance report to the town.

Would the definition of affordable housing need to be “reworked” for rental units, asked Friedlander.

Koos said no, based on the current definition.

The zoning and subdivision ordinances define affordable housing as “Housing that meets the needs of families and others who wish to live in the Town of Castine, and whose household income is no more than 125 percent of the median income of Hancock County,” and that the housing “be restricted by means of deed covenants…or other binding, long-term methods.”

Koos said his rent would meet the federal Housing and Urban Development definition of affordable housing, which is rent not more than 30 percent of a household’s annual income.

Based on 125 percent of the median income for Hancock County, which is about $55,000 a year, that number is about $1,700 per month.

“Is $1,700 reasonable?” asked Friedlander.

“I don’t think for people I plan to rent to,” Koos said.

“You set the bridge,” he continued. “I know I can make it underneath with my boat, so I’m happy with that bridge height.”

Planning Board, January 9, 7 p.m., Emerson Hall.