BELFAST, Maine — As the city continues updating its comprehensive plan, a pair of public meetings will be conducted in the next few weeks to gauge the public’s response to the proposed changes.
City Planner Wayne Marshall said state policy calls for plan updates every 10 years, and the city’s document last won state approval in 1997. He said those updates were started three years earlier, and it took various levels of City Council and public participation before it was submitted to the state.
Marshall said this latest upgrade of the plan would require similar public participation and city approval and in all likelihood would not be completed and submitted to the state until 2010.
Marshall said the first public meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, at the East Belfast Elementary School. It will focus largely on proposed land use changes along rural areas of Swan Lake Avenue (Route 141), Waterville Road (Route 137), Belmont Avenue (Route 3) and Back Searsport Road.
The second public meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, at Troy Howard Middle School. It will focus on areas inside and near the U.S. Route 1 bypass.
“We will discuss the entire proposal but mostly focus on those changes in the bypass area and along the rural roads,” Marshall said Monday. “The comprehensive plan committee has been working on these future land use issues for some time and is now looking for public input.”
Marshall said the committee planned to schedule another series of meetings for November, sometime between Election Day and Thanksgiving.
Marshall said the committee said many sections of the plan would remain “quite similar” to what already exists as policy while others would represent “significant changes” to current policies. Permitted uses such as mineral extraction and agriculture would be retained.
The changes along the rural roads were aimed at permitting similar uses on both sides of the road. Under current rules, some form of commercial development is permitted on one side of some rural roads, while it is prohibited across the street.
In the case of Waterville Road, commercial development is permitted from the Route 1 bypass to Marsh Road. Under the new recommendation, commercial uses would be reduced to the area from the bypass to the Riposta Funeral Home. In addition, all of Vine Street, which is now in a residential zone, would be open to light commercial development.
On Belmont Avenue, low intensity commercial uses such as offices and service businesses would be permitted from Edgecomb Road to the Belmont town line. The same would take place on Swan Lake Avenue where light commercial activity would be permitted from Route 1 to Pooler’s Garage.
“One thing the comp plan committee has worked very hard on is to try and equalize uses on both sides of rural roads,” Marshall said.
Inside the Route 1 bypass both sides of Wight Street would be opened to permit office development for health care purposes. Wight Street is across Northport Avenue from Waldo County General Hospital.
The near bypass area changes the commercial district at the south end of Route 1 near the Perkins Road to residential on the bay side of the highway to mixed use across the road. It also folds the Airport Growth District into either existing abutting Business Park and Office Park zones. Both sides of Crocker Road would be changed for residential uses only.
“We’re coming out with some very concrete proposals as to how to look at land use within the community,” Marshall said. “We’re looking for a plan that truly reflects local interests but also is sensitive to the concerns the state asks communities to examine, such as how to expand the economy, set aside areas for affordable housing and protect natural resources.”