A meeting about a Bangor man’s plans to create housing for those homeless people on recently purchased land in Bradford exploded into a debate Monday over his intentions and how he would sustain the development.
Michael Tuller, who is president of nonprofits Bangor Friends of Affordable Housing and Bangor Friends of People in Need, purchased 35 acres in Bradford to develop a safe community that could be a park for RVs or tiny homes, he said last week. He described something like a commune, where people share responsibilities.
Tuller wants to make a dent in Bangor’s homelessness crisis, but the overwhelming sentiment from roughly 200 residents at a Bradford Select Board meeting was that he should not do it in their rural community just more than 20 miles from the city.
“Are you going to be responsible for resources that these people require?” asked one woman, who did not identify herself. “We don’t have a full-time fire department, and we don’t have a police department. Are you going to provide a doctor’s office? Ambulance services?”
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Michael Tuller has purchased 35 acres in Bradford to create housing for those who are homeless in Greater Bangor.
Tuller’s plans largely remain a mystery because he has not submitted them to Bradford’s Planning Board, which reviews and makes decisions about land use in town. Still, he showed up Monday night to field questions from the public after information about his project, some of which he said was not accurate, circulated online during the last week.
The town’s resources are stretched thin as it is, residents said. Bradford already struggles with drug use and crime, which some residents worry would increase. Some understood Tuller’s project as an encampment or “tent city” for those who are homeless, similar to those that have appeared in Bangor and other major cities in Maine.
Several people asked how Tuller plans to control the community from growing if new residents who are homeless begin telling others about the area. They wondered about the safety of children and the elderly, warning that Bradford is a town full of gun owners.
The property would not be an encampment, and Bangor Friends of Affordable Housing would be responsible for the property and keeping it secure, Tuller said, though he didn’t provide details. Most of his answers were inaudible as attendees shouted at him and over each other, occasionally erupting in applause to support a person’s sentiments.
Pockets of Bangor, including downtown and wooded areas, are filled with trash that hasn’t been cleaned up in years, said one resident, who feared the same would happen in Bradford. A man who identified himself as a local veteran said he refused to see his taxes increase to aid Tuller’s project.
“Bangor doesn’t want to see the homeless [population], so maybe they thought Bradford would be a good place to put them where they can’t be seen,” resident Terry Shortt said after the meeting. “I will campaign, vote, do whatever is needed to keep it out of town.”
Residents are wasting their time questioning Tuller, who “can’t decide whether he wants to build a Taj Mahal, hotel, campground, mini houses or doll houses,” Select Board member Levi Surette said. About 45 minutes into the meeting, he suggested wrapping up and getting the town’s lawyer involved.
“How much do you have to hear before you realize we don’t want this?” someone in the crowd shouted.
After a brief discussion, the board unanimously voted to involve the Planning Board and legal counsel in any steps moving forward.