Dover-Foxcroft’s residents and Select Board are debating how a proposed moratorium on manufactured housing in the town’s historic district will affect people’s housing options.
The high interest in manufactured housing in town causes an unanticipated amount of development pressure in the historic district, according to a draft of the moratorium ordinance. Manufactured housing also threatens the area’s character and cultural value of the town, the document said.
Across Maine, municipalities, such as Bangor and Belfast, are facing a housing crunch. Dover-Foxcroft has one too, but how to solve it while still keeping the historic character of the town is a challenge. On one side of the discussion is the town’s government, which would use the moratorium — an idea a group of residents brought to the planning board last month — to protect its historic district and possibly place more regulations on housing.
On the other side are residents, some of whom want housing to remain accessible and question why the process was moving so quickly and what could be historic about the area where they live.
Besides threatening historic character and cultural value, manufactured housing poses a threat to land use and structural compatibility, aesthetics and the town’s use of the area for community parades and events, according to the moratorium draft.
torium doesn’t ban manufactured housing in the historic district, it would pause permitting for and placement of mobile homes in the area for 180 days, which the Select Board can extend, repeal or modify.
This gives town officials time to assess land use regulations and consider how to protect the area and ensure public health and safety, according to the draft.
The proposed moratorium’s definition of manufactured housing doesn’t provide much specificity and sparked confusion among residents who attended a hearing earlier this week.
The document defines manufactured housing as “a structural unit or units designed for occupancy and constructed in a manufacturing facility and transported, by use of its own chassis or an independent chassis, to a building site.”
A resident who attended the hearing wondered if the town will distinguish between manufactured housing and modular homes, and whether someone could bring a modular-style home into town if the moratorium passes.
Gwen Hilton, the town’s land use planning consultant, said the moratorium could be revised not to affect modular homes. For example, the Select Board could revise it only to include mobile homes and doublewide homes.
The Dover-Foxcroft Planning Board initially discussed the moratorium at its March 3 meeting, when patrons and admirers of Lincoln Street requested a zoning change on mobile homes, according to the meeting minutes.
Barry Hutchins, a Select Board member and spokesperson for the group, asked the planning board to consider not allowing mobile homes on the street, the minutes said. The moratorium later expanded to include all historic district areas, Town Manager Jack Clukey said at the Select Board meeting March 28.
Residents with a permit already would be exempt, Code Enforcement Officer Brian Gaudet said.
“After the moratorium goes into effect, for the next six months, I wouldn’t be able to issue permits [for manufactured housing] within the historic district until we get that ironed out,” he said.
The draft includes a map, with shaded areas falling into the historic district. The town’s historic districts are areas with a predominance of historical significance, Clukey said. Residents aren’t required to maintain the historic nature of their property, he said.
When a property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, however, there is an expectation to preserve the building, Clukey said. For example, 19 buildings along East Main Street earned recognition as the Dover-Foxcroft Commercial Historic District in September 2021, which provides access to grant opportunities, federal income tax incentives and more.
“Having a historic district is a lot bigger than just having mobile homes, and there are a lot of regulations that come along with it,” said Herbert Aumann, who serves on the planning board. “Basically, right now, we have a historic district, but it’s in name only. People can do whatever they want to do.”
To rule out only mobile homes is “a very narrowed point of view,” Aumann said, urging the Select Board to consider the language in the moratorium.
“If you want to do it, do it right,” he said. “In other words, if you want to have a historic district, fine. I am all for it. But to do it and rule out a specific building, I think, is a mistake.”
The Select Board voted to table the moratorium as suggested by Vice Chairperson Cindy Freeman Cyr. The moratorium should be comprehensive, and during the public hearing there was too much confusion surrounding its language, she said.
Officials will revisit and clarify the moratorium draft and then schedule another public hearing at a later date.