October 19, 2018
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A coastal Maine city is running out of places to put new businesses

Lauren Abbate | BDN
Lauren Abbate | BDN
Main Street, Rockland, Maine.

City officials in Rockland are trying to make more room in the city for future business development.

City councilors on Wednesday gave initial approval to rezoning several plots of land on Pleasant Street. The zone change, if given final approval next month, would allow for the land to be developed for commercial use or a business park. Currently, the land is zoned as residential or transitional space.

Julie Hashem, the city’s economic and community development director, said the change would enable growth in the city’s tax base, ideally with a private developer.

“It’s about creating opportunity in assisting Rockland businesses if they can’t grow and expand in place, or providing space for a new business that wants to call Rockland home,” Hashem said.

Rockland has “a shortage” of land available for commercial or light industrial uses, according to a letter to city councilors from Hashem, City Manager Tom Luttrell and Code Enforcement Officer John Root.

Only 12 percent of the city is zoned for commercial or industrial use, the letter states. That 12 percent of property makes up 28 percent of the city’s valuation.

“They punch above their weight,” Hashem said.

Hashem said the city’s industrial park is at maximum capacity, calling it “extraordinarily successful.” City officials are proposing that the parcels of land be rezoned to business park zoning and not industrial because “it seems a better fit to today’s neighborhood composition,” according to the letter to councilors.

Business park zoning would allow for “office-like” buildings and light industrial use.

The land on Pleasant Street has been eyed as a place where development would be desirable since Rockland’s most recent comprehensive plan was drafted more than a decade ago, Hashem said. City officials are just now getting around to proposing a zoning change because two of the parcels are for sale.

Five parcels are included in this area. Two parcels — one of which is for sale — are owned by one individual, whom the letters identifies as being supportive of the zoning change. The other parcel that is for sale is owned by MaineHealth.

Rockland Little League owns one parcel where a baseball field is located, and the Farnsworth owns a cemetery in the remaining parcel. Hashem said the baseball field and the cemetery will not be affected.

A public hearing and final vote by the Rockland City Council on the proposed zoning change will be held Nov. 14.

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