Old Town local signs Credit: Nina Mahaleris / BDN

A proposal to build two new apartment buildings in Old Town received approval from the city’s planning board despite resistance from some residents, clearing the path for more housing in the Bangor area at a time when a shortage of affordable housing has been on display.

The two, 12-unit buildings gained approval following a two-year process during which developers encountered resistance at multiple stages.

The Old Town Planning Board approved McPike LLC’s plans to build the apartments on parcels from Wilson to Lincoln streets and Perkins Avenue, next to Perkins Avenue Park. The developers first came to the planning board in 2020 to ask that zoning boundaries in the area be moved to include the land eyed for the development.

At that first meeting in 2020, the developers, Tim McClary and Zachary Pike, met resistance from some members of the planning board, including Russell Sossong, who at the time raised concerns over whether the development would be beneficial to the area or the city, from a tax perspective.

Initially, the project was smaller, but two years later the project has grown to 24 units. Half would be one-bedroom apartments and the others would have two bedrooms.

During a presentation to the planning board on June 28, engineers working on the project faced questions and concerns regarding the traffic the new development might generate and whether the project would hurt Regional School Unit 34 and the pedestrian nature of the area.

Aside from Perkins Avenue Park, the Leonard Middle School and athletic fields for the school are nearby as well.

During the meeting, Sossong said the development would be a change for the area.

“This is not little, this is a big change to that neighborhood. Twenty-four units, 12 doubles, and 12 singles — it is not going to be all professional people from the college,” he said.

A resident who spoke during that meeting said she was “shocked” to see the building plans.

“My beautiful home will not be my beautiful home anymore and it’s very upsetting,” the woman said.

At the board’s July 12 meeting, the city’s economic development director and Old Town resident E.J. Roach said there is a need for this kind of housing in Old Town and that the development would be good for the city.

“Old Town is in a shortage of housing,” Roach said. “Part of my job is to recruit businesses and create jobs for the city and in those conversations, they always ask, ‘where are we going to live?’ And we are on the wrong side of the equation in the number of rental units and housing available.”

Across the state, there is a lack of affordable housing as the values of homes have skyrocketed and rents have increased.

Planning board chair Ted Shina said during the meeting that a good amount of the rental housing available in Old Town needs improvement. This new development promises to be of sound quality and will add to the housing needed in the area, he said.

“This is a quality development,” Shina said. “These are quality apartments.”

McClary, one of the developers, told residents at the June 28 meeting that he “will not rent to students,” and aims to rent the units to young professionals.

Despite disputes over a lack of a traffic study and whether the project trips city or state statutes requiring such a study, the board approved the development on July 12. The project is expected to be completed within the next five years.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...