Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 5, 2013
Special town meeting asks voters to once again define Castine zoning
Planning board to hold hearing September 12
by Anne Berleant
The public has another chance to weigh in on proposed warrant articles to amend the town zoning and subdivision ordinances when the planning board holds a public hearing on September 12 at 7 p.m.
The special town meeting is set for September 23; selectmen have focused on the warrant at their past several meetings and will sign it on September 16, after which it cannot be changed.
Subdivision ordinance redux
The warrant contains 43 articles, including some that amend the subdivision ordinance passed by voters last November.
The 2012 subdivision ordinance relaxed requirements for cluster development in the rural district. The idea was to encourage the growth of affordable housing in Castine.
However, Article 9 of the special town meeting warrant seeks to amend the land use table to disallow all cluster developments in the rural district.
Confusing the issue is Article 10, which seeks to allow cluster developments in the Village I district. Two other articles—41 and 42—propose to directly amend the subdivision ordinance by restricting the planning board’s authority to approve cluster developments not meeting dimensional standards set in the zoning ordinance.
Land use under the microscope
Thirty-seven of the warrant articles ask to permit specific uses in specific districts with planning board approval. But the planning board has little or no leeway beyond the zoning ordinance.
“The planning board can only follow the zoning ordinance that people pass,” said Selectman Gus Basile at an August 22 meeting.
In short, if a proposed use meets performance standards outlined in Article 6 of the ordinance, the planning board is legally required to approve.
The warrant specifics
Each warrant article amending Article 5, Land Use Table, addresses a use in a specific district. For example, Article 3 asks whether auto service stations and repair garages, without fuel dispensing, should be allowed in the Rural district. Article 4 asks the same for the Village I district and Article 5 asks it for Village II and III.
Uses now allowed in the Commercial district, such as bed and breakfast establishments and hotels and inns, are up for vote in all other districts. (See articles 6, 7 and 8, and 23, 24 and 25.)
(The ordinance defines a bed and breakfast as having four or fewer rooms serving eight or fewer people, and hotels and inns as under 25 rooms, with meal service permitted.)
Market and retail sales, allowed now in the commercial district, could be split into separate uses. Articles 26, 27, and 28, if passed, would allow markets in the Rural, Village I and Village II/III districts, respectively. Article 29 would allow retail sales other than markets in the Rural district.
Commercial structures or uses “not otherwise listed” are up for votes in Rural and Village. (See Articles 12, 13 and 14.) Ditto for industrial structures and uses—defined in the ordinance as “the assembling, fabrication, finishing, manufacturing, packaging or processing of goods, or the extraction of minerals. (See articles 19, 20 and 21.)
Article 15 would allow a commercial vessel or marine equipment storage facility in the Rural district.
Article 16 seeks to disallow multifamily dwellings in the Rural district. On the other hand, Article 17 would allow them in Village I.
Last month, Chairman Douglas Wellington outlined a plan on how to cover all 43 articles in one meeting: to first go through each one quickly for comments, and then return to those articles that call for further discussion.