Six months after the announcement of a proposed 900-unit housing development in Kittery, residents there are asking the town council to put a stop to the project.
The petition, sent to the town clerk’s office on June 15, has more than 650 signatures of people opposed to the 82-acre development.
“It should be clear to the council and the town manager, Kendra Amaral, that there is a lot of resentment concerning this development,” resident Chuck Denault wrote in a local blog post on the topic.
At issue is Dennett Landing, a proposed project on land connected to Dennett Road, Route 236 and Martin Road, all less than a mile north of the Maine Turnpike. According to documents filed with the Kittery Planning Board, the project, first announced in January, is a multi-use development.
The plan includes a medical office building, laboratory, brewery and small retail space, but also calls for 900 units of housing. The residential units are a combination of studio and multifamily apartments, townhouses and a residential assisted living/memory care unit. In all, the proposal estimates a population of about 1,800 to 2,100.
Amaral said the housing in particular is sorely needed, given the statewide housing crisis.
“Kittery is like all of our neighbors in the state, and the region,” she said.
The draft of Kittery’s current comprehensive plan reflects the need. According to its executive summary, median home prices in town have gone up 4% from 2010 to 2015 alone, and median rent levels have gone up 7% in the same period.
“That’s really pushing out our area workers,” Amaral said.
Amaral said the town council has had its eye on the area the proposal covers, which is currently vacant, since 2016.
“They wanted to know why there wasn’t development in that area,” she said.
At the time, the council changed zoning laws to encourage development, including relaxing regulations protecting wetlands (while still keeping them within limits set by the state), allowing higher density development and reducing parking requirements.
Right now, Amaral said, the project is still working its way through the planning board process and there has been no sign of it running afoul of local ordinances, but not everyone agrees that the proposal is a good idea.
Denault did not respond to a request for interview from Spectrum News, but in his blog he has praised the citizens petition, which asks town officials to roll back some of the zoning changes, effectively blocking the project from going forward.
Denault described the proposal as a “preposterous behemoth project that could bring well over 1,800 new residents, traffic, (plus) increasing our dump’s capacity, overburdening our old sewer treatment plant, bring a potential onslaught of students to the schools, taxing our public service departments, and a litany of other issues.”
Amaral said she wasn’t surprised at the criticism. Most of the town’s residents, she said, agree that more housing is necessary, but often disagree about how to meet that goal.
“When it comes to actual implementation of projects there can be reactions that are negative,” she said.
Kittery Town Clerk Karen Estee said her office had verified the signatures, and the town council will hold a special meeting to address it on July 13.
Following the hearing, Amaral said, the town council must either act on its own or bring the petition to a local referendum.