Avesta requests sewer allocation

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Avesta Housing, Inc. has formally requested a sewer allocation from the town of Bridgton for the 21-unit affordable housing complex they plan to bring before the planning board next month. The allocation, if granted, would bring the town’s leach field on lower Main Street very close to its full capacity, preliminary engineering estimates indicate.

According to Code Enforcement Officer Robby Baker, the agency would need an allocation of 2,640 gallons per day at the former Chapter 11 site at 247 Main Street to accommodate their plans for 19 one-bedroom and 2 two-bedroom units. The site currently has an allocation of 225 gallons per day.

Last Thursday, the Sewer Committee agreed to recommend that selectmen grant the request, contingent on the agency’s agreement to retain ownership of the property and finance any improvements that may prove necessary to the servicing leach field at the ballfield on Lower Main Street.

Engineers working to precisely determine the capacity of the town’s sewer system have agreed that the lower ballfield currently processes about 7,416 gallons per day. However, when current weaknesses in the system, known as inflow and infiltration, are figured in, that figure climbs to 10,178 gallons per day. And when Avesta’s 2,415 gallon-per-day net allocation is added in, that figure climbs to 12,593 gallons per day — a surplus of just 73 gallons per day from the maximum capacity of the field.

Any developer bringing plans that impact the town’s sewer system must show, under the Site Plan Review Ordinance, that its plans will not place any undue stress on the system.

Avesta has an option to purchase the property currently owned by Food City owner Zack Sclar. The $4 million-plus housing complex for the elderly and disabled is proposed to be funded by a for-profit limited partnership of investors, using low income tax credits and subsidies from Housing and Urban Development. Avesta Housing would have controlling ownership in the building, according to Avesta Project Manager Matt Peters.

The town would gain an estimated $48,000 a year in new tax revenue from the project, as well as $36,225 in sewer fees from the net allocation of 2,415 gallons per day, at the current rate of $15 per gallon.

Despite those benefits, the project has been openly criticized in public meetings recently because of its plans not to have any commercial space set aside on the ground floor of the proposed three-story structure. Peters has said investors aren’t willing to provide commercial space because it would make the project economically unfeasible, but said Avesta hopes to provide enough space on the 29,000-square-foot lot to provide for some type of future commercial use. The plans are expected to be presented to the planning board for its next meeting on April 10.

Peters has said that in other of the many affordable projects for the elderly and disabled Avesta has built in southern Maine, such as Wayside Pines in Bridgton, only one percent of the tenants are classified as disabled, with the rest qualifying under the elderly housing guidelines of being age 62 or older.

Avesta Housing recently lost its contract to administer the Section 8 housing program in Maine, following a probe into substandard conditions of apartments rented to Section 8 tenants under their administration in Norway. However, Peters said that the decision by Maine State Housing to revoke their administration of the Section 8 program will not have an impact on their plans for 247 Main Street.

“It’s a wholly separate service,” said Peters, referring to their former role as Section 8 administrators from their development, ownership and management of over 60 affordable housing complexes they’ve had built since the agency was created in 1972.

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