The latest rendering for the Steeple & Stone housing project on Broad Street in Cumberland.


By ETHAN SHOREY, Valley Breeze Editor

CUMBERLAND – The Planning Board has approved a revised and improved plan for the redevelopment of the St. Patrick Church property at 295 Broad St. after the developers, One Neighborhood Builders, listened to previous comments and made changes.

Though parking was still an issue brought up by nearby neighbors Monday, representatives from the developer assured those residents, one in particular, that they don’t have anything to be concerned about.

The plan calls for 44 total affordable units in what is now called the Steeple Stone development (previously St. Patrick’s Place), including 21 in the main church building, 14 in a rebuilt rectory, and nine townhouses near Broad Street, all deed restricted as affordable for 99 years.

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Master plan approval of the St. Patrick’s plan in September came with two conditions, both of which were addressed, one to stagger the townhouses so they’re not all in one even line and one to have an exit only onto Church Street.

Planning staff recommended approval, saying that though there will be increased traffic at what is now a “dormant site,” this affordable housing development and reuse of a historic property will be much better than alternatives such as a commercial development, which would bring constant traffic.

The applicant also addressed internal circulation issues, adding an accessible entrance and loading zone out back for deliveries and pickup of residents.

An attorney for One Neighborhood Builders thanked the town for working so hard with the developer to hold a special meeting and moving the process along, saying they’ll score higher on their application for housing tax credits with preliminary plan approval in hand.

Architect Mike Abbott said there are 69 total parking spaces, and with 10 units having no car associated with them, the effective use will be 56 spots, meaning an excess of 13 spots for visitors, attending nurses, and others.

But Barbara Paquette, a resident of nearby 6 Elizabeth St., expressed strong concerns about traffic, saying she has no problem with the project overall as presented but she’s worried about what will happen with what she sees as a shortage of needed parking. Those in the neighborhood currently have an “honor and respect system” for mostly on-street parking, she said, but she can imagine a very negative impact to that system going forward. Each neighbor should get as much consideration as those moving into the units, she said, adding that she believes there should be 92 spaces on-site.

Paquette questioned Abbott about the assumptions of one car per bedroom, saying that as a landlord she’s never rented to a couple that only had one car. She said she fully expects there to also be three-car families when adolescent children are involved.

Milton Baxter, director of real estate development for One Neighborhood Builders, said the company actively manages its parking and at its current development, 82 percent of households have a single adult, primarily because of income restrictions.

Baxter emphasized how they run their developments on their own, and if there are issues with parking, their management company can put limits on number of vehicles and take other steps. A total of 12 units have age restrictions requiring residents to be 62 or older, he noted.