News Feature

Castine
Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 27, 2012
Land use changes rolled back by Castine zoning subcommittee before second public hearing

Click here to see the full Castine Zoning Archive.

The zoning subcommittee

The zoning subcommittee has used community input to fine-tune revisions that will fulfill the Comprehensive Plan directives—as they are tasked with—and satisfy voter concerns. The revised ordinances will be voted on at the November 6 general election. Above, from left, are subcommittee members Tom Comocciotto and Chairman Bob Friedlander, zoning consultant Rich Rothe, and members Lynn Parsons, Liz Parish and Scott Vogell at a March 26 public hearing.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

Members of the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee’s subcommittee on zoning called an “emergency” meeting on Monday, September 24, to consider input from a public hearing held four days earlier. At that September 20 hearing, a vocal core of mostly off-neck residents expressed strong disapproval of proposed land use changes in the Rural Zone.

A second hearing held by town selectmen, aimed specifically at those proposed changes, will be held on Thursday, September 27.

Questions as to the success of the ordinances, “particularly the zoning ordinance, particularly Article 5, Land Use Table,” were behind the last-minute meeting, said Subcommittee Chairman Bob Friedlander.

The CPIC was appointed by selectmen to put into action the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan approved by voters in 2010. The zoning subcommittee works under the auspices of the CPIC and has spent over a year revising the zoning and subdivision ordinances to simplify building permit processes, spur economic growth, especially off neck, and provide for affordable housing.

While Friedlander said he felt “really strongly we have presented the town with a worthy document that is going to benefit the town,” he put forth two suggestions: to have the public vote separately on each article of the zoning ordinance, or hold Article 5, Land Use Table, “in abeyance” for the scheduled November 6 vote and “bring it up for some future vote.”

Neither suggestion held sway with the committee members.

“Look at the [articles] that are in issue,” said member Scott Vogell. “Ninety percent are spot on, five percent questionable and five percent should be killed. We need to find that five percent.”

That “five percent” was allowing auto service stations and repair garages, inns and hotels, and restaurants and takeaway food establishments in zones outside the commercial district and market and retail sales in all village districts, all of which are now rescinded from the proposed ordinance.

In addition, the required buffer zone is now a strict 500 feet, not “up to 500 feet,” in the Rural Zone for commercial structures or uses, cluster developments, commercial vessel or marine equipment storage facilities and market and retail sales. Research and development has been specified as a commercial use, and a new farmers’ market use in Village I will allow the ongoing Thursday market to continue.

“I feel it would be foolish for everything to go down on a couple of issues,” said member Tom Comicciotto, regarding the rescinded use proposals.

The subcommittee left the proposed multi-family dwelling use in all districts, with planning board approval, relying on the definition of “family” to prevent the conversion to apartment housing for MMA students. In addition, the 150-percent lot size requirement for each added dwelling unit limits the potential of multifamily uses in village zones to a few buildings.

In the rural zone, the lot size requirement is 100 percent, or two acres, for each additional unit. Between lot size, setback and buffer requirements and the disallowance of wetlands in lot size calculations, the potential for multifamily structures are also limited, although not as severely.

“We’re trying to get this thing passed,” said Friedlander. “If this is going to be a nail in the coffin…”

“Clearly explain it,” advised CPIC Chairman Sue Macdonald.

The selectmen’s hearing on the proposed land use changes will be held on September 27, 5 p.m., at Emerson Hall. Immediately following that meeting, planning board members will vote to recommend to the selectmen, or not, the proposed zoning ordinance. (Selectmen are not required by law to follow a planning board’s recommendation.) A draft of the ordinance with the proposed changes noted has been reposted at castine.me.us, along with the final revised version.