FARMINGTON — Selectmen voted Tuesday, Feb. 8, to table proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance so interested parties could present suggestions to the Zoning Board.

The changes proposed would add a definition, table of uses, and performance standards for homeless shelters.

“The Planning Board voted about three years ago that the present ordinances in the Town of Farmington in effect don’t allow for a homeless shelter anywhere in town,” Zoning Board Chairman Paul Mills said. “This one has performance standards for any entity that wishes to have a homeless shelter.”

Since August, Kobi Perry has been the director of family and health services at Western Maine Community Action. She hadn’t been aware, otherwise would have joined the discussion, she said.

WMCA has been working recently with those experiencing homelessness and worked with Western Maine Homeless Outreach to learn from them, she said.

“We’re currently providing services to 39 households that consist of 64 individuals with the majority having lived in Farmington before they came over,” Perry said. “Sixteen households, 20 individuals right now are unsheltered meaning they are living in their car or on the streets. Thirty-three households, 44 individuals are in temporary quarters that we’re paying for through emergency rental assistance.


“If they are unable to secure affordable housing during that time, they will be back out on the street,” she noted. “They will be sleeping at Hippach Field again and wandering in our parks, very vulnerable to this severe weather.”

Affordable housing is rare in this area, Perry said. WMCA hopes to partner with others to build supports but the process is long, would probably take three to four years, she noted.

As proposed, the Zoning Ordinance would allow for a maximum of 32 homeless shelter beds anywhere in Farmington. Perry questioned that number given that 64 people are currently being served. The majority of clients lived in Farmington before becoming homeless, she said. Six to 12 beds are exclusively for victims of domestic violence, what is the plan for the other 52-58 people still not housed, she asked.

“That number is rising almost every day,” Perry said. “I got five calls yesterday from people experiencing homelessness.”

Some standards listed could prevent barriers to certain clients, in some sections language should be changed or clarified, she said.

Safe Voices provides services, New Beginnings works with children experiencing homelessness, Perry said.


“Would it be possible to invite these groups to give input on what is reasonable and what works, have our voices heard,” she asked.

“We’re very pleased to see homeless shelters allowed in any portion of the town,” Bill Crandall with WMCA said. “I myself didn’t realize the level of homelessness prevalent in  this area. Currently we’re very lucky to be able to provide services to these folks under a Covid-supported federal program. It’s short term, won’t last forever.”

“We’ve been aware of the need,” Selectman Michael Fogg said. “Does the current ordinance limit your ability to help the homeless?”

“The answer is ‘yes’,” Mills said. “Three and a half years ago the Planning Board voted there was no vehicle within the present ordinances for which any homeless shelter could legally operate in the Town of Farmington.

“That’s the void we’re trying to fill,” he noted. “It wasn’t envisioned 30 years ago when these ordinances were developed.”

The information used for the proposal was based on experiences others had had, not on the Farmington homeless shelter, Mills said when asked where the data came from.

In other business, Police Chief Kenneth Charles informed the board a plan for University of Maine Farmington graduation traffic control is no longer needed. Graduation will be held at the drive-in movie theater so closing off streets won’t be necessary, he said.

The board also approved using $10,307.25 of Police Department funds from 2021 to outfit two new cruisers. It was approved in May 2021 but the department didn’t get the invoice until December and it ended up in spam, Charles said. The board had approved $9,986 but the actual cost was a bit more, he said.

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