Selectmen explore local preference ordinance

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

The Bridgton Board of Selectmen have endorsed a recommendation made by Mark Lopez to begin drafting an ordinance that would give Bridgton residents "local preference" status, when it comes to being considered as tenants at future affordable housing projects here.

Voters here could be asked to enact a Local Preference Ordinance for affordable housing developments, at the ballot box in November.

Lopez said he first made his suggestion to enact a local ordinance giving Bridgton area residents top priority at affordable housing developments at the Bridgton Community Development Committee's meeting on May 7.

Saying he attended the informational meeting held by Avesta Housing officials at the Bridgton Community Center April 26, Lopez said it keeps being said that Bridgton is in "dire need" of affordable housing, but no one can say just how dire the need actually is.

Lopez said he had developed affordable housing projects in Massachusetts where 70% of the units were specifically targeted for local residents, mandated by ordinances enacted there for that purpose. He said Avesta officials "said they would if they could" designate a certain percentage of the units at their proposed apartment complex on Main Street here for Bridgton residents, but didn't know whether they could or not.

"There is no downside to the developer," said Lopez, pointing out that his recommendation was not being made specifically because of Avesta's proposed apartment complex at the former Chapter 11 property on Main Street.

"I think it's a wise thing to do, as a community, because if the need exists, we ought to take care of the people in our backyard," Lopez stated, at the May 8 selectmen's meeting.

"I agree," said Selectmen Chairman Arthur Triglione Sr.

"Yeah, I think it's a very interesting topic," Selectman Paul Hoyt said.

"I support it — it should go on a (future selectmen's) agenda, to get more public input," said Selectman Bernie King. "My only concern is that it passes legal muster."

"I think you hear from the board of selectmen that we agree with you," Chairman Triglione told Lopez. "Yeah, I think it's something we should look at."

Referring to any legal complications that could arise by enacting such a Local Preference Ordinance, Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said, "I think you're all right, as long as it doesn't trump any federal (affordable housing) requirements."

"The motion (at the CDC meeting) was to either start here (at the board of selectmen) or at the planning board," in order to begin drafting a proposed Local Preference Ordinance, said Lopez.

Saying the proposed Local Preference Ordinance could be readied in time for the November referendum ballot, Berkowitz said it should definitely be reviewed by the town's legal counsel.

"We want to make sure it doesn't have any bullet holes in it, in case it is legally challenged," Berkowitz cautioned.

"If we possibly can (enact a Local Preference Ordinance, I think it's a great idea," stated Selectman Woody Woodward.

Selectman Hoyt asked how the drafting of a Local Preference Ordinance would fall under the planning board's purview.

"We could craft it with the CDC," said Hoyt.

The town manager said it would be considerate of the selectmen to notify the planning board members that the ordinance would be drafted by the selectmen and CDC.

"It (the proposed Local Preference Ordinance) could either be part of the Site Plan Review Ordinance or a stand-alone ordinance," said Berkowitz.

Chuck Renneker suggested the selectmen research what other towns in Maine have for this type of local preference ordinance.

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