MILBRIDGE, Maine — Selectmen met Thursday night with the planning board to provide some guidance in the wake of a recent housing moratorium passed last week by voters.
The moratorium halts all development of multifamily housing for six months.
“Although the planning board has been working on it, this issue pointed out the need for some land use regulations,” Town Manager Lewis Pinkham said Friday.
Pinkham said Milbridge has no land use or zoning regulations.
“Our building regulations consist of 10 feet from the neighboring property and 25 feet from the road. That’s it,” Pinkham said.
He said planners asked selectmen for guidance. “They wanted some direction about how many changes they should look at and how in-depth they should go,” Pinkham said.
The planners have set a workshop for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 2, to review other towns’ land use regulations and see how they could apply to Milbridge.
The lack of land use and zoning regulations became evident when Mano en Mano, a local nonprofit organization that has received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, planned to construct a six-unit apartment building for farmworkers on Wyman Road, Pinkham said. Mano en Mano presented its application for local building permits to the town’s planning board last month, according to earlier reports.
The new apartments would be available to anyone who works in agriculture or related industries and who lives in the area year-round, Mano en Mano officials have said. Migrant workers, who move long distances with the seasons to find work, would not be eligible to live in the building.
Residents and some town officials expressed concerns, however, that the development could have an adverse effect on the town. Neighbors to the project said the project could affect groundwater resources and generate unwanted traffic on Wyman Road.
Town officials were concerned that Milbridge did not have enough zoning standards in place to determine appropriately what standards the building should meet, saying such developments could put a strain on town services.
After the moratorium vote, Anais Tomezsko, executive director of Mano en Mano, said the group plans to challenge the legality of the moratorium.
A spokesperson at attorney Ed Bearor’s office, which is representing Mano en Mano, said no suit was filed this week regarding the project. Bearor was not available for comment Thursday, but Bearor previously told the Bangor Daily News he doesn’t think the town has legal standing to implement the moratorium regardless of the voting results.
By statute, he said, a moratorium can be implemented only if the town’s resources would be overburdened or if there would be some other type of public harm without it, he said.
The building will not be connected to town water or sewer or other public utilities, he said, and there would be no public harm created by the six-unit apartment building.
Bearor also said he thinks the moratorium, because it has the appearance of being directed at the local Latino population, may violate nondiscrimination clauses of the federal Fair Housing Act.