January 11, 2013

Waterville residents organizing land trust

Affordable housing, historic preservation goals of Waterville Community Land Trust

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- The goal is to provide affordable homes for families with low and moderate incomes, improve neighborhoods and protect the historic nature of a community.

For information on the proposed Waterville Community Land Trust, including meeting location, contact Nancy Williams at nancywilliams@verizon.net or Ann Beverage at agbeverage@yahoo.com.

The vehicle: A community land trust.

Work is under way to create the Waterville Community Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that would buy or accept donations of land and houses, restore the homes and sell them to eligible buyers. The trust would own the land, though the homeowners could re-sell the houses.

Nancy Williams, who owns a house in the city and currently runs a land trust in New York, and City Planner Ann Beverage, are heading up an effort to develop the trust.

They will host a meeting at 2 p.m. Sunday and are seeking residents who want new ideas to help invigorate city neighborhoods and may want to be founding members of the trust's board of directors.

"Land trusts have had great successes in other communities, and I'm sure a land trust will benefit Waterville," Beverage said.

She and Williams have been meeting with community leaders over the past few months to tout the benefits of a land trust.

Beverage recommended launching the first trust effort in the city's South End, an area she has long advocated as being an historic district worthy of attention and revitalization.

"We wanted to focus on one neighborhood, as we can have more of an impact if we focus on one area," Beverage said.

The South End was once a hub of business activity and home to many Franco-Americans who moved to Waterville from Canada to work in the mills. Efforts to revitalize the neighborhood have been spearheaded over recent years by the South End Neighborhood Association.

"It still has a lot of charm," Beverage said of the South End, which comprises Water Street and surrounding streets. "I just see the potential in it."

A land trust would help increase home ownership in the South End. The idea is that people would stay long, have pride in the neighborhood and feel they have a stake in it.

Trust board members would seek grants to help develop public open space and create other opportunities for growth, such as providing space for startup businesses.

Williams said she has heard wonderful stories from families who have called the South End home for many years.

"The success of the Hathaway Creative Center is an inspiration to all of us to gather our energy together and continue the work of restoring historic South End homes and encouraging businesses to thrive again along Water Street's historic business area," she said.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247


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