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East Spencer property owner receives approval to open rooming house

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

EAST SPENCER — After lengthy discussions, much questioning and a public hearing at which no opposition was voiced, East Spencer property owner Jamilla Kennedy can move forward with plans to open a rooming or transitional housing space on South Long Street.

Kennedy submitted her request in early March for a zoning permit for transitional housing at 104 S. Long St. She said her main purpose is to create a transitional living space for seniors 55 and older or young adults 18 to 20. Her goal is to reach out to seniors, but she said she has more often been approached by homeless youth and at-risk teens who would be transitioning from foster care to independent living.

The building was built about 2000 with the intent to accommodate multiple tenants as a shared-housing arrangement. The property is in the general business district, and she was asking for a conditional-use permit. The building has eight bedrooms, five bathrooms including two that are handicapped-accessible, a kitchen and a living room area.

The issue at hand was that the town had no wording in its zoning ordinances for what Kennedy wanted to operate. The ordinances allow for petitions to operate a boarding house, which Kennedy said she didn’t want. The request was put before the town Planning Board, which came up with possible changes in the wording in March.

The town has zoning for a boarding house, but on Monday the board approved adding that the property must be occupied by an on-site owner or operator. A boarding house is essentially, according to the ordinance, a building other than a hotel or restaurant where meals or lodging is regularly furnished by prearrangement or for pay for four or more people not members of a family.

The town had no provisions for a rooming house and added it to the ordinance to mean a place not occupied by an on-site owner or operator. The rooming house would not exceed 12 occupants at any given time. Both housing situations would not be open to transient customers.

Kennedy was approved for the conditional-use permit.

The town board then considered the town’s own petition for a conditional-use permit for town-owned property at 110 S. Long St., a former school administration building.

The town is intent on using the former school building as multifamily housing in an area zoned for general business. The parcel is 4.01 acres. The building was constructed in 1909 as a public school.

The property would house no more than 80 residential units, but a request of 60 units is more likely in the early stages of development. The property would have one bathroom, one kitchen and one living room per unit. it would have common areas for group gatherings, entertainment and recreation. There will be other amenities including green space, a picnic area and seating.

Interim Town Administrator F.E. Isenhour spoke about the intended use of the property. No one spoke in opposition to the zoning request.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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