News Feature

Castine
Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 6, 2012
Public hearing will spotlight proposed zoning changes, before November vote

Click here to see the full Castine Zoning Archive.

by Anne Berleant

On September 13, the Castine planning board will outline proposed revisions to the zoning ordinance in preparation for a November 6, Election Day vote.

While a similar hearing on a revised Subdivision Ordinance was held in March—and changes incorporated into the draft as a result of public comments—the subcommittee in charge of the revisions expect questions on both ordinances.

The ordinances have been sent to the town attorney and to zoning consultant Rich Rothe, of Rothe Associates “to dot the ‘I’s and cross the ‘T’s,” said zoning subcommittee chairman Bob Friedlander. The planning board will review the zoning ordinance on Thursday, September 6, at 7 p.m.

The Comprehensive Plan, approved by voters in 2010, called for ordinance changes to ease restrictive regulations and create opportunities for affordable housing and economic development, especially off neck. The zoning subcommittee, working under the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, has worked since June 2011 on the revisions in weekly, public meetings.

The process has been “a fair and transparent” one, said CPIC member Bill Brennan at an August 23 meeting. “If voters say ‘nay,’ then the Comprehensive Plan points have been rejected by voters.”

Affordable housing

The proposed subdivision ordinance has added 8.22, Affordable Cluster Development, which permits the construction of contiguous single-family dwellings on 20,000 square-foot lots, or about one-half acre, with an equal amount of permanent open space. The minimum parcel size is four lots. The substantive differences from 8.21 Cluster Development are that 1) the planning board may approve a density incentive of 25 percent, so that on an eight-acre rural district lot, five houses may be “clustered” on four acres, with four acres of open space; and 2) deed covenants and restrictions keeping such housing “affordable” must be submitted by the developer and approved by the planning board. In a last-minute change, wetlands will not be allowed in lot size calculations.

“Affordable” is defined as a household income not to exceed 125 percent of the median income of Hancock County.

Cluster developments, and multi-family dwellings, will be permitted in Village I, II and III districts. Multi-family units require 100 percent minimum lot size for each unit, so that a 10-unit building requires about 20 acres in the rural district and about 5 acres in Village II district. Minimum lot size in Village III has changed from 100,000 square feet to 85,000, or about 2 acres, to match the rural district.

Creating economic development

New permitted uses, according to revised Article 5.4 Land Use Table of the zoning ordinance, are as follows:

In the rural district: auto service stations and repair garages; commercial vessel or marine equipment storage facilities; inns and hotels; markets and retail sales; restaurants and take-away prepared food establishments; mixed commercial and residential uses; and commercial and industrial structures or uses “not otherwise listed.”

In village I: mixed commercial and residential uses.

In all village districts: bed and breakfast establishments; markets and retail sales; and restaurants and take-away prepared food establishments (all of which now are limited to the commercial district).

Under proposed definition changes, bed and breakfast establishments are limited to seven or fewer rooms; hotels and inns are defined together and allow for 24 rooms, up from the current 14; (two of the three inns in town currently have more than 14 rooms); and home occupations allow for employment of three non-family members, up from two.

Easing the application process

Under the proposed zoning ordinance, building permits for one- and two-family homes now issued by the planning board will be CEO-issued; and “normal” maintenance and repair of a structure will no longer require a CEO permit.

Abutter notification for CEO-approved building (section 8.2.6) must be done by first class mail within three business days of receiving an application. The CEO may take action on the permit within 10 days of receiving it, and must within 30 days.

Drafts of the subdivision and zoning ordinances are available on the town website at castine.me.us. The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m., September 13, in Emerson Hall.