Edgecomb planning board delves into LD 2003

Sat, 12/16/2023 - 8:45am

LD 2003 is on the minds of virtually every planning board member in Maine as they begin implementing state legislation into their local ordinances. Edgecomb’s is one of hundreds of planning boards across the state working towards first understanding the legislation and then creating a proposal which meets state requirements to increase housing density.

The Legislature enacted LD 2003 in 2022 requiring municipalities to take action in creating more affordable housing. The law prohibits municipalities from limiting housing to one unit per lot and allows for less restrictive ordinances to meet state goals. 

The Edgecomb planning board is in the early stages of its work. The board spent 90 minutes Dec. 14 discussing LD 2003 in a way to make it workable for Edgecomb while meeting state affordable housing goals. 

“We just started digging into it last night. So far, we’ve been sitting back watching what other communities are doing, and building on that,” said Planning Board Chairman Rebecca Graham. Planning boards need to implement state-mandated housing goals which allow additional units on lots zoned for single-family homes.

The legislation also allows one accessory dwelling unit on lots with existing single-family homes. It also requires municipalities to allow 2.5 times the current allowed housing units for development where most units meet standard definitions.

Ellsworth’s approach is one example being studied by the planning board. Graham describes Ellsworth’s approach as “unique” by implementing less restrictive state housing standards with more restrictive local ordinances limiting short-term rentals. “Instead of amending every other portion of their ordinance, they take a more elaborate path. If you want to exercise your rights under LD 2003, you (municipality) need to show advancing attainable housing goals as part of other requirements. You also have to commit to keep out the short-term rental industry for 10 years.” 

Closer to home, Edgecomb is also monitoring Wiscasset’s progress. Wiscasset has worked with Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission. Edgecomb is also seeking county assistance. County Planner Emily Rabbe is scheduled to meet Jan. 4 with the planning board. “The commission has so much more resources than a town like Edgecomb has. They have GIS (geographic information system) for mapping, and Emily can advise us on writing the ordinance,” Graham said.  

Besides monitoring other communities’ progress, Edgecomb is also receiving state funds. The board is also receiving municipal financial support. Graham reported selectmen pledged to use American Rescue Plan Act funds for their work. 

While the state seeks more affordable housing, Graham believes the problem is more attainable housing. She described “affordable” as a term with multiple interpretations. “The statewide average house price is $370,000. Here, it’s closer to $500,000,” she said. “Neither one is really affordable nor attainable to most people around here.”

Maine municipalities have a July 1, 2024 deadline to “positively show a mechanism that a town has affirmatively advanced the state’s housing goals.” The planning board needs to finish its work in time for a public hearing and a May 18 town meeting. 

The planning board meets next at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28.