Friday, December 6, 2013
CHELSEA — The town is hosting a public hearing tonight so the public can learn more about a proposal to build 42 units of senior housing near the VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus campus.
The proposal from Volunteers of America Northern New England, the regional affiliate of a national nonprofit organization, includes the construction of an apartment building and a cluster of one- and two-bedroom cabins to the southeast of the Togus complex.
It will be near the campus entrance on Route 226 in Chelsea, south of the Togus National Cemetery.
Town Manager Scott Tilton said the 6:30 p.m. public hearing at Chelsea Elementary School will be an opportunity for both town officials and residents to ask questions about the proposal.
Julia Wilcock, vice president of new business development at Volunteers of America Northern New England, and Ryan Lilly, the Togus center director, will be at the meeting to answer questions, Tilton said.
“We just want people to be aware that this is going to be happening, and if they have any questions, they could come and find out,” he said.
Town officials’ biggest concerns are whether the new housing could affect Chelsea Elementary School or the Fire Department. The proposed development won’t add to the town’s tax base, because it’s a nonprofit organization on federal land, Tilton said, and town officials don’t want it to increase the cost of town services.
It doesn’t appear that will happen, Tilton said. Most of the units have only one bedroom, so he isn’t expecting elementary school-age children to live there.
Togus will provide police and fire services to the proposed development, according to spokesman James Doherty.
Doherty said the land will be leased to Volunteers of America for the project, but he didn’t know the cost of the 75-year lease.
In addition to providing town officials and residents with more information about the proposal, the public hearing will be a chance for residents to give their blessing to the project, Tilton said.
Town approval isn’t required for the project, he said, but the organization is looking for town support because it’s applying for a grant from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development for infrastructure costs. Tilton said the plan calls for installing about $1 million worth of underground power lines from Hallowell Road.
Wilcock, from the Volunteers of America Northern New England, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Volunteers of America provides services such as housing and health care to vulnerable groups, including veterans, at-risk youth, seniors, people leaving prison, the homeless and people with disabilities, according to its website.