Bradford’s Select Board is considering a moratorium on the development of certain housing and shelters after residents last month fiercely opposed a Bangor man’s plans to create housing for those who are homeless.
Bradford is “suddenly faced with the prospect of increased development pressure from proposals for rooming houses and shelters,” according to a draft of the moratorium ordinance.
Residents have shared concerns about the location, development and operation of such places. That includes health and safety, environmental effects, quality of life, adjacent property values and size, the document said.
Michael Tuller, who is president of nonprofits Bangor Friends of Affordable Housing and Bangor Friends of People in Need, bought 35 acres in Bradford, which he intends to develop into a safe community for people who don’t have homes. That could be a park for RVs or tiny homes, he said last month, describing something like a commune.
Though it does not explicitly state it, the proposed moratorium is a response to Tuller’s plans, which largely remain unclear because he has not submitted them to Bradford’s Planning Board. He has a permit for a septic system, but if adopted, this would prohibit him from building certain housing and shelters, which are defined in the document.
The proposed moratorium gives the Bradford Select Board 180 days to consider residents’ concerns and the adequacy of the municipality’s land use ordinances. That means the board could decide to create new ordinances that protect residents and the health of the town.
Board members discussed the draft at a meeting Monday night, and its language will likely be revised after residents raised ideas and questions.
“The select board is being conscientious,” the town’s attorney, Kristi Trafton of law firm Rudman Winchell, told residents. “They do not want to hamper development in the town.”
Trafton’s understanding is that Tuller has a permit for a septic system for a four-bedroom house, six tiny homes or six campsites, she said. But there are no building plans, she said. People were curious why the septic system permit was even allowed.
“I haven’t heard one person in town advocate for this,” Vice Chairperson Julie McCarthy said about Tuller’s plans.
Bradford wants to prevent a shortage or overburdening of public facilities, which is foreseeable if proposed rooming houses and shelters are developed without regulations, according to the moratorium draft.
The draft defines a rooming house as a dwelling as a space that “is let by the owner or operator to four or more persons who are not the spouse, legal dependent, parent or sibling of the owner or operator.”
It defines a shelter as “a facility or group of attached or detached facilities providing temporary overnight shelter to individuals in a dormitory style or per-bed arrangement.” The draft also includes definitions for dwelling, dwelling unit and rooming unit.
Residents asked questions and suggested tweaks to the draft, worried that Tuller would find a loophole. They wondered why tiny homes are not prohibited in the proposed moratorium, and Trafton said that under state law, such structures are considered single-family homes. A moratorium on tiny homes would be more difficult, she said.
Those in attendance also asked how the town would enforce the moratorium if it passes at a later date, especially because its code enforcement officer recently resigned. Bradford is also searching for a town manager, though Lois Jones is serving as interim.
“I don’t want this in my backyard,” one person said, referring to a recent instance of emergency responders aiding an unconscious man who appeared to be without a home. “I deal with it every day at work.”