Selectmen host hearing reviewing 4 potential new ordinances

Wed, 03/22/2023 - 8:45am

On March 27, the Boothbay Harbor select board will hold a public hearing for reviewing proposed ordinance changes. The planning board proposed six changes on March 13. Selectmen voted to move four to the Monday public hearing and tabled two others. After the hearing, selectmen will decide whether to place the four on May 6’s town meeting warrant. 

All six proposed ordinance changes were made by planning board members. Bill Hamblen presented each proposal during the March 13 meeting. Selectmen voted to send proposals regarding a change in the downtown business district, side yard setbacks, authority of the board of appeals and affordable housing for consideration at the March 27 hearing. 

The current downtown business district ordinance divides Boothbay Harbor into three sub-categories (A,B,C). The major difference is A has no parking requirements while B and C do. Bath Savings and Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library are in an isolated zone of District B surrounded by District A. Hamblen explained the proposed change resulted from the library’s expansion plans. The library wants to expand its main building and renovate or reconstruct Hyde House. Under the current code, the library would have to pave an extensive amount for additional parking. “This would create a sea of asphalt rather than a green oasis. This seems counter to the code, particularly when the library is surrounded by parking lots,” he said.

Side yard setbacks is the second proposal slated for review. Under the comprehensive plan, all areas except the rural district and general residential are considered growth areas. Hamblen explained the concept of encouraging growth is limited in the downtown business area by strict setbacks for rear and side yards. The current setback requirements are geared toward fire prevention. The proposal calls for structures within side- or rear-yard setbacks to be limited to include items similar in nature to masonry stoops and equipment pads, air conditioner condensers, and other similar items. The proposal would exclude propane and other flammable items or other flammable storage or refuse. 

Items would be required to fit four feet wide and up to 7.5 feet in length from the building. If an existing stoop or pad is found in the abutter’s side, the location of new items shall be allowed on any side. “The mitigating solution is requiring a fire rating on exterior walls inside these setbacks and for buildings extending to the lot lines upgrade to include sprinkler-type fire protections,” he said. “The new Maine law LD 2003 will promote more add-on construction residential units. It will apply, in the beginning, to all areas, but the first impact will include general residential and downtown business districts.”

The third proposal scheduled for public hearing is affordable housing. There is a state mandate for all municipalities to adopt LD 2003 by July 1. Under a provision in the proposed ordinance, if the state eliminates  LD 2003 requirements, then Boothbay Harbor would eliminate them automatically.

The fourth proposal would clarify any ambiguity of the appeals board’s authority. Hamblen said the language is rewritten to harmonize with corresponding provisions in the shoreland zoning ordinance. 

Two planning board proposed ordinances were tabled. Selectmen wanted proposals regarding employee housing and new building height ordinances to include more specifics. There is no employee housing in the municipal ordinances and Hamblen said the planning board recommended inclusion for residential use. “In recent years, several existing structures have been converted to seasonal housing  for employees of larger businesses. The planning board has no standards to review and approve these structures when converted or constructed,” Hamblen said. He recommended enacting the new ordinance and working out any problems as they materialize. But most selectmen believed the proposal lacked specifics. Selectman Denise Griffin believed the proposal was better suited for either a June or November referendum vote. 

Selectmen also thought a proposed change to increase building height from 30 to 35 feet except in the shoreland zone was best decided in a referendum election. Hamblen reported Boothbay Harbor has several building restrictions ranging from 30 to 35 feet with additional variations for facades and false fronts up to 36 feet. “A review of other coastal towns shows a general uniformity of 35 feet in height,” he said. “A proposed change will simplify the code and permit some additional space in the upper portion of a building which could be used as an accessory apartment.”

Selectmen Ken Rayle, Griffin, Tricia Warren and Allysa Allen liked the proposal, but decided it needed more details. Chairman Mike Tomko opposed the proposal. “I like short buildings so I don’t support this.”

Selectmen will hold the public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday in the conference room.