Alna talks apartments

Fri, 08/13/2021 - 8:30am

    Letting homeowners rent out apartments would not hurt Alna “at all,” Brittney Morgan Bardo said. It would enrich the town with people whose rent would help residents keep their homes, she said. 

    Workshop goers at the town office and on Zoom Aug. 12 mulled apartment rules and got talking air bnb’s, boarding houses, business permits and how many homes to allow on a lot. One rule on the books does not meet federal fair housing law, “so we do know it needs to be changed,” Emily Rabbe of Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission said. The workshop on how to possibly amend town rules yielded nearly three hours’ input. Rabbe called it a decent start. 

    About two dozen in-person and remote attendees took part in a series of straw polls Rabbe offered: 47% voted the town should consider “explicitly regulating” short-term rentals, and the rest split evenly between disagreeing or somewhat agreeing or disagreeing; 21% voted accessory apartments should still be 800 square feet or less, 21% disagreed and the rest were in the middle; 67% disagreed with still requiring an accessory apartment to be in either the house or an outbuilding; and 47% agreed a house’s owner should have to live in it or the apartment, 40% said no and 13% were in the middle.

    One question addressed the rule officials said poses the fair housing issue. The rule states those in the main and accessory units must be extended family or be a family member’s certified caregiver; in the straw poll, 93% called for changing that. Rental income could help people pay their taxes or medical bills, Bardo said.

    Les Fossel said apartments could help people like him, “whose lives are bound to this place” and who are getting older and will eventually need help keeping up their properties, like his with its big garden and “big beautiful field that all my neighbors like.”

    Fossel said, “I want to stay here. This is my home.”

    Joan Belcher said, as she ages, she might want to have a “boarding house style, living with a group,” with her bedrooms that have bathrooms and with the group “sharing a meal around the table,” so she could still pay her taxes. Her great grandmother ran a boarding house in Camden, she recalled. Moments earlier, Beth Whitney said boarding houses could be a “fire-related nightmare.”

    Both were great comments that raise periphery issues, Rabbe said. 

    Former planning board member Jeff Spinney cautioned, the views of attendees, about 3% of the town, should not be seen as a pulse of the voters.

    Former selectman Ed Pentaleri noted any proposed rules would get a hearing and a town vote. Officials discussed a possible followup workshop and said people could also email comments.

    You have to start somewhere, Bardo said.