Planners to take up New Beginnings application again

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FARMINGTON – Planning Board members will meet tonight to discuss a youth outreach program project, one month after their approval was overturned by the appeals board.

The Lewiston-based program New Beginnings, which aims to help disadvantaged young adults make it mostly on their own, purchased a duplex at 147 Perham St. and planned to house clients there. Applicants came before the Planning Board last fall with plans to add fire escapes.

But abutters Jim and Claire Andrews and others asserted that if New Beginnings moves in, the use of the building will change from straight residential to something akin to an institution or hospice. If a building changes use, the Planning Board must hold a site plan review, which includes a public hearing.

Planning Board members disagreed with that assessment. Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser sent the board a letter last fall asserting that it would be discrimination to rule that New Beginnings members living in the duplex are any different than, say, college students living there.

But in December, the Appeals Board voted 4-1 to send the decision back to the board members.

Kaiser said he’s not sure what, exactly, the board will discuss Monday. “The board of appeals voted to remand this matter back to the Planning Board for additional fact-finding on the basis that the record is not adequate,” he said. But Planning Board members thought, originally, that their fact-finding was adequate. “What is it the appeals board is asking for?” Kaiser asked. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how they’ll decide to process that.”

The board meets tonight at 7.

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