KITTERY, Maine — Neighbors of the male-only Wyman Rooming House have been notified of a proposal to tear down the aging residence and replace it with three detached, single-family condominium units.
However, Jim Higgins, whose name is on the proposal and whose spouse is a co-owner of the property, said the decision to tear down the residence has not yet been finalized. In fact, the owners may ultimately opt to leave it as it is, but sell it in the next few years, even if the town approves the condo project, he said.
“Right now, we are doing this process to see what our options are for the property,” Higgins said. He drafted the design of the proposed homes and said his husband owns the property with his family.
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The owners in town records are listed only as Eliot-based Lusitano LLC. Altus Engineering in Portsmouth sent notices to 32 abutting property owners about the proposal on Dec. 20, followed by the preliminary site plan review application to the town two days later.
Altus Vice President Erik Saari wrote in his preliminary site plan review application, “The property currently hosts a residential dwelling used as a boarding house and is primarily open lawn except for a small section of wooded wetland on the north perimeter. The application contemplates the construction of three single-family detached houses together with associated site improvements.”
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Higgins, a retired architect, said the proposed homes would all have the same layout, featuring three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a single-car garage and laundry units.
“We’re just trying to figure out what our options are, so this idea to bring in three separate houses is just an option,” he said.
Ownership of the 192-year-old boarding house, last appraised by the town at $264,400, changed in June 2017 when Lusitano LLC purchased the property from the family of Harry Hannigan, who died in 2015 and formerly operated Wyman Rooming House. The sale price of the building and property was $260,000.
Hannigan previously took ownership of the property at no cost in 1986. The two-story 2,565-square-foot building has eight bedrooms and two bathrooms, according to town records.
A sign outside of the boarding house states it has provided lodging for men since 1909. Four male tenants currently call the Wyman Rooming House home. Higgins said the owners haven’t raised the rent price on the residents since taking ownership nearly five years ago.
He said the family has not taken in new tenants to live in the older boarding house since it changed hands.
Higgins said tenants for years, including with the past owners, have predominantly been Portsmouth Naval Shipyard employees, some of whom live elsewhere but opted for a shorter commute by renting at the 28 Wyman Ave. property.
Higgins declined to state the current rental rates at the Wyman Rooming House, but said the weekly cost is less costly than other local options for housing.
Higgins said he and his husband are away from the area several months out of the year for family reasons, so selling the property appears to be the likeliest course of action. “The building is in a state where it doesn’t make any sense to pump in any money to a building that is at the end of its life as a boarding house,” Higgins said.
Outlined in the preliminary site plan submitted to the Kittery Planning Board, the “single phase” project, consisting of the construction of the three units and a shared driveway, would affect 0.8 acres of the property.
“It’s an interesting property,” Higgins said of the 1.7-acre lot. “It has some history.”
Notices mailed to abutters of the Wyman Rooming House, all of whom live on Wyman Avenue and Tilton Avenue, assured them no action is required on their part as a result of the proposal.