Courier-Gazette Letters to the Editor Dec. 31

Jan 01, 2021

Rockland’s detached accessory apartments

The Dec. 14 Rockland City Council meeting passed in first reading the Zoning Ordinance to amend the definition of Accessory Apartments, to allow a detached apartment on a lot with a single-family residence as a separate, stand-alone structure ranging its size from 425 to 800 square feet.

The amendment is being marketed as an affordable rental housing alternative for low-income persons and workers, where housing costs don’t require more than 30% of a household’s income.

However, for the following reasons, this amendment will provide little help in creating affordable rental housing.

The first reason being zoning and land use constraints. For comparison, an owner of a 2300 square foot single-family residence on one of the rare, large in-town lots consisting of a half acre can build a 725 to 750 square-foot detached accessory apartment on the lot and meet all the frontage, rear and side setback, minimum lot coverage and parking requirements, as well as being 33% of the living floor area of the principal structure.

However, an analysis using the City’s GIS property tax map showed most of the lots and single-family residences in the built-up areas, especially east of Broadway and Route 1, are smaller, and the lots are often stuffed with a house, garage, outbuildings, utilities and paved areas, along with land use constraints.

Combined with meeting 33% of the floor area of existing houses, minimum lot coverage and setback requirements for the principal and accessory structures, these factors either limit the size of separated accessory apartments to mostly small apartments of 425 square feet that can only house one or two persons, or prevent their construction altogether, thereby minimizing the amendment’s effectiveness.

Next, the high cost of erecting a stand alone apartment or renovating an existing detached outbuilding or garage into an apartment, along with the costs of borrowing, will also hinder the production of affordable rental units.

In order to cover the costs of construction or renovation and utilities extensions, along with interest loan repayments, the owner of the principal structure will need to generate enough rental income to cover these costs in a fairly short period of time.

For this reason, he or she will have no choice but to rent these new units to people who can bear the highest market rents.

Rodney Lynch

Rockland

Thank you from the Red Cross

As one of the longest and most challenging years of our lives draws to a close — with the promise of a vaccine offset by the gravity of staggering infection rates and devastating loss of loved ones — I would like to take a moment to reflect on the amazing resilience of our Red Cross partners.

The Red Cross, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavors to prevent and alleviate human suffering on a global scale. As all of us can attest, there has been no shortage of human suffering in 2020. However, it is in these dark times that the passion and tenacity of Red Crossers shine the brightest.

To this end, I want to acknowledge all who have enabled the continuance of our mission this year. Thank you to the staff who have risen to every challenge that COVID-19 has presented — from creating physically distanced emergency shelters and delivering no-contact meals, to developing nationwide antibody testing and producing an entirely new blood product in convalescent plasma.

Thank you to our amazing Maine volunteers who have — throughout the pandemic — deployed to areas ravaged by hurricanes and wildfires, staffed blood drives, responded to house fires, and supported veterans. Thank you to our corporate partners and financial supporters, who continued to acknowledge the value of supporting the Red Cross.

Of course, thank you to our blood donors and blood drive sponsors who helped to secure the nation’s blood supply and recover from critical shortages experienced in the spring.

Indeed, as we reflect on 2020, it is important to look beyond tragedy and hardship and to recognize the tremendous resilience displayed by our state. This was evidenced by the leadership of our governor and public health officials, and by all government workers who continued to execute the business of governing amid numerous challenges.

It was exemplified by our healthcare workers, who unflinchingly stepped into the breach to combat this novel virus, and our educators and students who met the challenges of remote, hybrid and in-person learning. So too, by our essential workers who made quarantine living possible, and by everyone who has been negatively affected by this pandemic.

We are proud of our state and our Red Cross sponsors, donors, staff and volunteers who have persevered through this pandemic. While it may be far from over, the end is in sight, and we have demonstrated that we have the determination and fortitude to see this through. As we navigate a physically distant holiday season, please be safe and well, and appreciate all that we have accomplished and endured.

Chairperson Rose Murphy of the Central and Mid Coast Maine Board of Directors

Executive Director Nicole Evans of the Central and Mid Coast Maine Red Cross

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Central and Mid Coast Maine Red Cross

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