Brewer OKs zoning for senior housing

Posted June 30, 2010, at 7:06 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — After six months of delays, city councilors on Tuesday approved a zoning change that will allow the Brewer Housing Authority and the social service agency Penquis to move forward with a senior housing project on Chamberlain Street.

Councilors first tabled the zoning change at their Jan. 12 meeting and again in February, saying they wanted to see the results of an investigation into whether any laws were broken — particularly the state’s conflict-of-interest law — when the parcel was purchased.

The housing authority is partnering with Penquis to build a $5.14 million, 32-unit senior housing project at 258 Chamberlain St., which was purchased in October 2009 from Calvin Bubar, former chairman of the housing authority board. He submitted his resignation the day before the purchase and sale agreement for his prop-erty was signed.

The investigative report, conducted by a Portland law firm and presented to councilors on May 6, clearly states that state laws and the housing authority’s rules were broken and that there was a direct and substantial conflict of interest.

Bubar has contended all along that he did nothing wrong.

Councilors, at their May 18 meeting, voted to forward the investigative report to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

“There is still some concern about the transaction,” but city leaders want the project to move forward, Mayor Arthur “Archie” Verow said Wednesday.

Whether any charges will be brought against Bubar will be determined by the AG’s office, he said.

Any violation of the state’s conflict-of-interest law is a Class E crime, which is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The zoning change was not on the council agenda, but was addressed after a poll of the panel members. The vote was unanimous, but Councilor Joseph Ferris, who represented Bubar in the sale of the property, abstained for voting.

“It is a development project and will be paying taxes for 15 years,” Verow said.

Officials with Penquis, the developer of the project, have applied for the 2010 Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program to fund the project and are awaiting word from the Maine State Housing Authority about whether they have been awarded funds.

The application process for tax credits is competitive, so support from Brewer councilors may help the application, Gordon Stitham, the housing authority’s executive director, said Wednesday.

This year’s round of tax credits includes a one-time supplemental grant program funded with federal stimulus funds, officials have said.

The applicant “plans to create 28 one-bedroom and 4 two-bedroom apartments for the elderly,” a letter from Rick Churchill, a loan officer for MSHA, states. “All utilities will be paid by the owner with estimated tenant rents ranging from $650 for one-bedroom units and $789 per month for two-bedroom units.”

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