Atlantic Avenue district undergoes DEP prelim review
Boothbay Harbor's proposed Atlantic Avenue Mixed Use District is under preliminary review by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The proposal has gone through an advisory workgroup to the planning board. The next stop would be the select board and then a town warrant, Planning Board Chair Bill Hamblen said at the July 11 meeting.
The town attorney is also looking at the proposal, to make sure the changes would satisfy the 2015 comprehensive plan.
"Until that process is complete, I can't really forward it to the selectboard for their review and formation of the warrant,” said Hamblen. “I understand the sentiments of 'move things along,' but the schedule is really no longer in our control."
The DEP considers the proposed district to be closest to a limited commercial district as defined by the state's shoreland zoning models. Hamblen said this means the justifications must be especially solid for changes concerning setbacks, lot coverage and square footage per use.
"From the DEP's perspective, this justification should be based on the current conditions in the district," said Hamblen. " … From the data that we have so far, I think we've got very strong justifications for the lot coverage and setbacks, but, candidly, poor justifications for the currently proposed square foot per use numbers."
Code Enforcement Officer Geoff Smith explained that when he ran some of the proposal by DEP's Colin Clark, the proposed 2,000 and 2,500 square feet per commercial and residential uses was laughed at. That would work out to 20 and 17 uses per acre respectively and Clark told Smith state standards would typically frown at four uses per acre without clear justification.
In a 4-1 vote with Tom Churchill dissenting, the board amended the proposal of square footage per commercial and residential use to 7,620 square feet per use, which is six uses per acre.
Board alternate Lee Corbin turned attention to the minimum setback requirement. Corbin was concerned all uses at the proposed 25 feet from high water mark would severely limit boating access. Corbin suggested perhaps setting different setback requirements for different uses.
Board member Chris Swanson said his concern with setting different setbacks would be structures hugging the edge of Atlantic Avenue. The board considered setting residential uses to 75 feet rather than the proposed 25 feet, but Smith urged the board to start by justifying the 25 feet first. In doing so, if DEP gives the board a go ahead, they could impose anything stricter than 25 feet; and if DEP does not accept 25 feet, the board would likely have its answer. The board voted unanimously to continue with the proposed 25 feet with the understanding that setbacks for residential uses should be reviewed at the next meeting.
The full meeting will be on BRTV’s website.
The planning board meets next on Wednesday, Aug. 8 at 7 p.m.