May 23, 2018
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Rockland considering major zoning overhaul of rural lands

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A plan to revamp zoning in the city’s rural areas would dramatically alter what is allowed in the area from Old County Road to the Bog Road.

The comprehensive planning commission will hold a hearing 7 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at City Hall to gather comments from the public. The city sent out notices last week to 407 people who own property in the area being considered for revised land-use regulations.

The aim of the changes is to “enhance and preserve the rural character of this area, while preserving current, permitted commercial uses along Old County Road,” the notice from the commission states.

One of the most significant changes would be an increase in the minimum lot size for any development. The current minimum lot size in much of that area is 20,000 square feet if the parcel is connected to the public sewer system and 43,560 square feet, or one acre, if not connected. The proposed rural residential zone would require 5 acres as a minimum.

Eric Galant, executive director of the Mid-Coast Regional Planning Commission based in Rockland, said that there is no public sewer in this region, and that much of the land has steep grades and wet areas, so 5 acres would be necessary.

Rockland Code Enforcement Officer John Root said while there are many lots that are less than 5 acres, the mean lot size in that section of the city is 5.3 acres.

City Attorney Kevin Beal said the proposed zoning regulations are a follow-up to a revised comprehensive plan approved in November by the city council that calls for preserving the rural nature of that area. He said the proposal is an offshoot of the recommendations of the Route 1 Gateway process that calls for promoting growth in the town center while allowing less intense development west of Old County Road.

The new proposed regulations would allow single family homes and duplexes but prohibit residential buildings with three or more units.

Other uses that are allowed now but would be prohibited under the proposal are churches, trailer parks, schools, funeral homes, service clubs, fraternal organizations, veterans’ organizations and social service buildings.

Beal said that there is a greater cost to municipalities for providing services outside of town centers.

Tradesmen’s offices, shops and showrooms are allowed under the current zoning but would be limited to studios under the new plan.

Commercial-scale wind turbines would be prohibited.

“It’s all about balance. You want people to able to use their lands but you don’t want it to cost other taxpayers more to provide services,” Beal said.

The maximum building height in the rural zone would be 35 feet except for barns, silos, sheds, other buildings for agricultural uses or noncommercial wind turbines used for the on-site residences.

Campgrounds would be allowed but only if they are limited to tents and not recreational vehicles or trailers.

The comprehensive planning commission is an advisory panel to the City Council. The group will eventually make recommendations to the council, which would make a decision on whether to follow through with the land-use regulation changes.

Beal said the commission is holding the hearing to get feedback from property owners in that region before recommendations are forwarded to the City Council.

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