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After months of debate, Bangor clears the way for more boarding houses

Homes near the corner of Boynton and Ohio Streets in Bangor. The area is part of Bangor’s Whitney Park neighborhood.
Gabor Degre
Bangor Daily News file
Homes near the corner of Boynton and Ohio Streets in Bangor. The area is part of Bangor’s Whitney Park neighborhood.

After months of debate, the city of Bangor will make it easier to convert large, historic homes into boarding houses.

The Bangor City Council on Monday night passed a new ordinance that would allow for their expansion in certain parts of the city.

Boarding homes have shared living spaces and at least three private rooms for rent. City planners see them as one of many tools that could alleviate Bangor's affordable housing crisis.

The council rejected a similar proposal back in March but vowed to revisit it after addressing concerns from the public.

Under the new ordinance, property owners would have to seek planning board approval before converting space to a boarding home. Neighbors would be notified of the plans.

Still, the new proposal received local pushback. Bangor resident Roc LeBlanc said he's worried historic homes will fall into disrepair if they become boarding houses.

"A lot of these landlords get into it, and we find out there's not a significant understanding of the responsibilities they've taken up," LeBlanc said at Monday's city council meeting.

The new ordinance does require that the property owner or a manager live on site at the boarding home, and it restricts boarding houses to major roadways in Bangor.

Others have said they're worried the boarding home expansion will erode the value of the city's historic neighborhoods and make them less safe.

"That's concerning from someone who wants to be able to just raise a family and actually allow for, I'd say, a resurgence of nice and architecturally pertinent homes too," said Bangor resident Zach Robertson.

But the council passed the new ordinance unanimously and with no debate.

City planners have said boarding homes are a popular with young professionals first moving to the area and could provide more affordable options for older residents on fixed incomes. The proposal is based on a 2019 study that recommended ways to expand Bangor's stock of affordable housing, the city said.