Boothbay Harbor boards continue housing ordinance review

Wed, 02/07/2024 - 12:00pm

    The Boothbay Harbor selectboard and planning board held a workshop Jan. 30 as part of an months-long process to review and make changes to town ordinances. Trying not to rush and stumble, members made slow progress, discussing issues around housing and LD 2003, but decided to leave more work for both the near and far future.   

    As reported in the Register, the meeting followed a Nov. 30 workshop between the boards to discuss issues including housing, mixed-use buildings and how space is used in the downtown business district. A subcommittee comprised of members of each board was formed during the November meeting to bring back recommendations on several ordinances, notably around LD 2003. They met three times in December, according to members. 

    In the January meeting, the boards reviewed the subcommittee's suggestions and discussed future steps. No motions were made because it was a workshop. Items to be publicly voted on will be reviewed by the town’s lawyer and approved by the selectboard before the May town meeting.  

    The boards agreed on several issues including that the Code Enforcement Officer should be able to approve accessory dwelling units (ADU’s) and additional dwelling units (Adu’s). They also agreed to limit one ADU per lot and to set ADU size to a limit of 1,000 square feet of heated space, saying the size is an adequate living area. Board members expressed concerns that ADUs could take up too much space without constraints. “It’s not about the houses, it’s about the density,” said planning board member Tom Minerich.  

    However, some issues were left unresolved. Out of the 21 issues to be reviewed, 13 were discussed and four were tabled for a time when the town can hire a professional planner. The four included regulation of short term rentals and defining allowed residential uses in the downtown business zone. Members from both boards expressed interest in hiring a town planner to provide support for ordinance revisions with long-term implications. However, the process would take a significant amount of budgeting and planning, according to the town manager in a previous meeting.

    Code enforcement officer Geoff Smith was at the workshop and advised for a cautious approach to ordinance changes, especially around LD 2003. He said that there is no rush and, although people have built second dwellings and accessory apartments, nobody has applied to build an ADU since LD 2003 passed. Smith also pointed out that shoreland zoning restricts a significant amount of development in Boothbay Harbor and is not overridden by LD 2003.  

    “We just don’t have the right town for this to explode,” he said. “I just suggest putting the brakes on this because it may be more comfortable ...” 

    The two boards have scheduled a Feb. 12 workshop to continue the discussion around general ordinance changes that include short-term rentals, a residential setback along Route 27, land area and use requirement in the downtown business zone and light glare.