Brewer housing project loses out on funding

Posted Jan. 13, 2011, at 7:32 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:17 a.m.

BREWER, Maine — The City Council’s six-month delay in making a zoning change to allow the Brewer Housing Authority and social services agency Penquis to move forward with a senior housing project on Chamberlain Street resulted in a loss in funding for the development, according to Councilor Jerry Goss.

“If the zone change had been made by the council [when first requested], this project would be under construction,” he said this week.

Officials with Penquis, the developer of the project, applied twice for federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program funds available last year through the Maine State Housing Authority, and both times were denied the funds. The first application was submitted in April 2010, before the zoning change was approved, and the second was submitted in October, after the zone change was made to allow high residential developments on Chamberlain Street.

The application process for tax credits is competitive, and projects are ranked based on a number of criteria, one being community support, Dan Simpson, spokesman for MaineHousing, said Thursday.

“In the April round they had, the project did not get four points for municipal approval,” he said. “They ended up missing the cutoff by three points. If they had got those four points, it would have been approved.”

The state awarded six projects Low Income Housing Tax Credit funds in April 2010 and gave another six projects funds in the October round of applications, Simpson said. Brewer’s project just barely missed qualifying during the October cycle, Goss said.

“The Brewer project tied for sixth place and lost out in the tie-breaker,” he said.

The application will be resubmitted in October for 2011 Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program funds, he said.

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 property was signed.

Councilors first tabled the zoning change at their Jan. 12, 2010, meeting and again a month later, 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 investigative report, written by a Portland law firm and presented to councilors on May 6, says 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.

At their May 18 meeting, councilors voted to forward the investigative report to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, and a month later approved the zoning change.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Linda Pistner said Thursday that her office is still analyzing the investigative report.

“It’s still under review,” she said, adding that the review is likely to be complete by the end of the month.

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

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