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September 1, 2021

Yarmouth may give final OK to 24-unit apartment complex plan

Courtesy / CHA Architecture A recent rendering shows the proposed 24-unit apartment complex in Yarmouth. The complex would overlook an embankment above a busy stretch of U.S. Route 1.

The town of Yarmouth may give the final go-ahead Wednesday for a 24-unit apartment complex that would be the largest addition of rental housing there in decades.

The Sweetser Village Apartments would consist of two three-story buildings, each with 12 units and 11,500 square feet of space, and a 42-space parking lot. If the Yarmouth Planning Board approves major subdivision and site plans, developer Paul Peck hopes to have the apartments built next spring.

Yarmouth is a Portland suburb of 8.500 residents, where residential housing largely consists of single-family homes. The few apartment developments in the town date to the 20th century.

The proposed complex would sit on a 1.75-acre parcel of land at 216 East Main St. and 0 Sweetser Road, overlooking an embankment above a busy stretch of U.S. Route 1. To the west, the apartments would border a branch of Cumberland County Federal Credit Union and a Hannaford supermarket plaza. A day care center abuts the complex site to the north, and an overpass of Route 1 is to the east.

Most of the site is filled with scrub trees and undergrowth, but an existing driveway for an adjacent house would be built out to provide vehicle access to the apartments.

Rents would range around $1,900. A total of eight first-floor apartments would be marketed to seniors and people with disabilities, although the parking lot only provides two handicapped-accessible spaces.

Peck, principal of Portland-based LWS Development and an attorney with Drummond & Drummond, hasn’t provided a cost estimate for the project. His company in recent years acquired the two properties that make up the site for a total of $573,000, according to town records.

Since January, Peck has met several times with the board and local residents to hash out plans for the Sweetser complex, and the current design reflects some of that input. There have been refinements to the facades, and the two buildings have been reoriented so they would face Route 1 more directly. In June, the board gave preliminary approval to the subdivision plan, based on 14 conditions that Peck has since agreed to meet.

“The applicant has been responsive to the Town Staff comments, the Planning Board comments, and public comments,” Yarmouth Director of Planning and Development Erin Zwirko wrote in an Aug. 19 memo.

“The proposed use is appropriate for the site and will offer diversity to the current available housing stock. With proximity to existing mass transit and local amenities (grocery store, restaurants), the use will support the effort to establish a more walkable pedestrian-oriented Route One.”

But some of the residents’ concerns remain. One may seem ironic: While fronting Route 1 for 200 feet and just a few yards from a walkway along the road, the complex offers no direct access to them.

"Why does this development not have direct access to Route 1 from the new road by the credit union ? Route 1 can handle more traffic than our neighborhood street," wrote East Main Street residents David and Kelly Anderson in an Aug. 7 public comment.

Instead, drivers would need to follow a half-mile dog-leg over and around Route 1 to connect with it. Pedestrians would need to cut through the parking lots of the neighboring credit union. Other access options were unworkable, according to Zwirko.

aerial photo of Route 1 corridor in Yarmouth, showing locations of properties
Courtesy / Sebago Technics
A map shows the location of the two proposed apartment buildings, in orange.

"Access to the site has been discussed at length during the concept review stage. As previously reported, Hannaford was not interested in granting access to this development and access via Sweetser Road is generally not supported by the public comments received," she wrote. "While there may be a desired line to access the Beth Condon Pathway down the hill, there is no point along the frontage of interest and there is no crossing to the east side of Route One along the frontage."

The Planning Board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday and more information can be found here.

yellow gabled building to the left of vacant, overgrown lot, with cars passing in front
File Photo / William Hall
This photo from January shows the undeveloped parcel of land in Yarmouth that may become the site of a 24-unit apartment complex.
Courtesy / CHA Architecture
The Sweetser Village Apartments would overlook Route 1, but not offer direct access to it.

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