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Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 2, 2012
CPIC zoning update
Castine zoning committee agrees to changes in multi-family dwellings standards

Click here to see the full Castine Zoning Archive.

by Anne Berleant

Zoning committee members approved a key revision to Article 6, Performance Standards, of the zoning ordinance at their July 30 meeting.

The proposed Section 6.20, Two-Family and Multi-Family Dwelling Units, allows multi-family dwellings in Village I and II districts, and halves the minimum lot size requirement for a multi-family dwelling in the Village III district.

The committee also reached unanimous agreement on increasing the number of non-family employees of a home occupation from two to three people (Section 6.11); loosened restrictions on public signs (Section 6.29); and discussed adding two new articles: one to limit first-floor residential use in the commercial district, and one to limit the number of non-family members permitted to live in one residence.

The committee was highly aware of their tight time frame. In order for a November 6 Election Day referendum vote on the zoning ordinance, the committee’s working dates are September 6 for planning board review, September 13 for a public hearing, and October 1 for selectmen to certify the ordinance and sign the warrant. This allows time for absentee ballots to be issued.

“Okay, let’s go,” chairman Bob Friedlander said at the meeting’s 10 a.m. start.

New construction of or conversion to a multi-family dwelling

Members unanimously approved Town Manager Dale Abernethy’s proposed revision of Section 6.20, Two-Family and Multi-Family Dwelling, drafted after a July 22 committee meeting.

The revised section 6.20.2 reads as follows: “New construction of or conversion to a multi-family dwelling not in the Shoreland Overlay District requires the minimum lot size for a single-family dwelling for each dwelling unit on the parcel. All other lot dimensional requirements of this Ordinance must be met.”

The proposed revision differentiates between two-family and multi-family units, with the 150-percent lot size requirement for a two-family dwelling unchanged.

However, the revised section allows multi-family units in Village I and II districts, something not permitted under the current ordinance. In the Village III district, the lot size is reduced from the current 200- to 100-percent for dwelling units after the first.

The minimum lot size for a single-family dwelling in all districts remains unchanged. Village I requires 8,250 square feet; Village II requires 20,000 square feet; and Village III requires 100,000 square feet. The Rural District requires 85,000 square feet. (One acre equals 43,560 square feet; a map of the districts is posted at Emerson Hall.) Wetlands cannot be used in lot size calculations.

Conversions and new dwellings require approval by the planning board and are subject to the provisions of the subdivision ordinance. (The revised subdivision ordinance, also up for a November 6 vote, is available online at

Home occupations, signage

The committee also approved changes to Section 6.12, Home Occupations. Three non-family members, up from two, may now be employed in a home occupation.

Proposed changes to Section 6.29, Signs, would allow illuminated signs within the Commercial District to be visible from the outside. Beyond that district, such signs on the first floor would be permitted.

The revised section 6.29 also removes language requiring signs or notice boards to be “compatible with the architecture of the neighborhood in design, construction and appearance” (, or for notice boards to be “compatible with the historic character of the area” ( Revisions to this section were based on recommendations by the planning board.

Limiting first floor residences in the commercial district

Two proposed new articles were discussed. The first is to limit the first floor conversion of buildings in the commercial district into residences.

“Isn’t the horse out of the barn on this one?” said committee member Lynn Parsons.

Maintaining the “existence of the commercial district is one of the charges of the Comprehensive Plan,” said committee member Doug Koos.

The committee acknowledged the difficulties in placing an “honest hardship on a property owner,” as Koos phrased the issue.

“I hate to see us avoid things,” member Liz Parish said. “We’ve tried to attack bed and breakfasts, subdivisions off neck, and I think we ought to attack residential first floors in the commercial district.”

Chairman Bob Friedlander charged each member to bring a statement on Residential conversion in the commercial district to the next meeting “and see where we go.”

The second proposed addition is limiting the number of non-family members to live in a residence, in an attempt to curtail Maine Maritime Academy student “party houses.”

“[Restrictions] have to equally apply to summer rentals,” Town Manager Dale Abernethy said.

Both proposed new articles will be discussed at the next meeting, along with site standards in the Shoreland Overlay district.

The zoning subcommittee works under the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, formed as a municipal body to put into effect recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan. It next meets on Monday, August 6, 10 a.m., at Emerson Hall.