Duplex gets OK for youth program By Maggie Gill-Austern


FARMINGTON – Abutters plan to appeal a Planning Board decision allowing a youth outreach program to move to a Perham Street duplex without site review, neighbor Jim Andrews said Tuesday.

The board voted 4-3 against site review Monday, reaffirming a fall ruling that was remanded to the board by the appeals board in December.

The Lewiston-based outreach program New Beginnings plans to purchase 147 Perham St. and rent the apartments to disadvantaged young adults who might otherwise be homeless, Director Bob Rowe said. At the moment, the nonprofit is renting the property, and cannot go forward with the purchase until the expected appeals process has finished.

“We’re not able to (go forward) as long as it’s under appeal,” he said.

It’s already been a long process, he said. His first meeting with the Planning Board was in September.

“We’re very pleased with the results,” Rowe said of Monday’s meeting.

The Planning Board voted in October to allow the plan to go forward without site review, but Andrews and other people who live in the area appealed the decision in December on the grounds that New Beginnings’ plan constitutes a change of use.

Renting the property to people who could not live on their own without being enrolled in New Beginnings programs turns the situation into something akin to a group home, not a residential duplex, Andrews said.

If the board agreed, the project would be subject to site review and a public hearing.

Appeals board members voted in December to remand the issue back to the planning board, saying they did not have enough evidence on record to make a decision.

The planning board met Monday to gather additional evidence, Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser said. After nearly two hours, board members voted 4-3 that the project did not need site review.

“Basically, because it was deemed that what New Beginnings is doing is not a group home and doesn’t fit into that category … this is a duplex and will continue to be,” he said.

“It doesn’t fit here,” Kaiser said of the group home definition. “No matter how hard you try to stretch that definition.”

“The board’s decision needs to be respected,” Kaiser said. “I don’t think any fault can be found with the procedure – you might not like their decision.”

Andrews confirmed speculation that he will appeal the board’s decision. “Yes, I think I am,” he said.

The board did a thorough job Monday night hearing both sides out, he said. “I think that this time we were all talking about the same thing, which was whether or not the use was a change of use or not.”

But based on his reading of the town’s laws, Andrews said he thinks the board made the wrong decision. “We’ll see how it turns out,” he said.