Boothbay Harbor Planning Board

Boothbay Harbor mulls rules on business, residences

Posted:  Friday, July 14, 2017 - 10:00am
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From left, members Jon Dunsford, Chris Swanson and Bill Hamblen at a recent meeting of the Boothbay Harbor Planning Board. JOSEPH CHARPENTIER/Boothbay Register

On the agenda for the Boothbay Harbor Planning Board July 12 were items that seemed to blend together despite the board’s best efforts to keep them separate. From building heights to affordable housing — with square footage in downtown businesses, downtown residential use, employee housing, and parking all in between — about the only way to separate them was to assign research on each talking point to smaller teams within the board.

Board chair Tom Churchill said allowing a 35-foot height on buildings will increase the value of the property built first, but decrease other properties’ values. “It doesn’t benefit the town.”

The concern over heights then led into the subject of affordable housing.

Jon Dunsford, first alternate, said the consultancy coming in strategic planning with the Joint Economic Development Committee will offer opportunities for some test cases. Dunsford, also a member of the JEDC, added: “Could we, from our general business district, back away into the general residential area?”

Board member Chris Swanson asked if it could go to a poll.

“Absolutely,” said Dunsford. Fall or winter might be better, because they’ll have the data and a couple of case studies then, he said. 

The board then moved onto the subject of the “required area” for businesses. There is a 10,000 square foot minimum of land.

“It turns out that by changing one number in one location of the ordinance, we could change that,” said member Bill Hamblen.

The board discussed the merits of reducing the required area to 2,000 square feet which would open up possibilities for current and future businesses, which must fill unwanted space rather than sharing it. To the surprise of his colleagues, Churchill said he would like to see the required area even less than that.

“I don’t disagree with you on that, because I think that one of the charms with this town is the boutique as opposed to a large store. I think it would benefit us,” second alternate Lee Corbin said.

The next item concerned restrictions on residences in the downtown and marine districts. The entire board agreed some sort of change prohibiting residences on the first floor of downtown dwellings is necessary. With local businesses, hotels, inns, and the like finding the need to establish employee housing as bed and breakfasts, state regulations require a minimum number of parking spaces.

“(Last time) we agreed that ‘Mr. B&B’ needs parking, but ‘Mr. Housing’ doesn’t,” said Dunsford. “We don’t have two different choices. Everybody who wants housing says they’re building a B&B therefore they’re putting all this unnecessary parking in.”

“Technically, we considered it under the zoning applicable to, not specifically defined it as, a bed and breakfast,” said member John Hochstein. “That was the fine line.”

Swanson, who owns a bed and breakfast, added, “The health code prohibits a guest from using the kitchen facilities.”

“This is the reason we need to clean the code up,” said member Margaret Perritt. She suggested a dormitory arrangement with everyone having a bedroom, bathroom and common access to kitchens.

Density requirements would also be needed, Churchill said.

The board decided to wait on the parking issue and make headway with research on the other issues.