ROCKLAND, Maine — A divided Rockland City Council gave preliminary approval Monday night to an overhaul of zoning in a large section of the rural part of the community.
The changes impose an increased minimum size for developing parcels from the current 1 acre to 2 acres. One of the five councilors opposed the proposal outright while another expressed reservations about it..
“A single parcel could change the character of the area,” Councilor Frank Isganitis said in supporting the new zoning package.
He said that one piece of land owned by a single individual in the region west of Old County Road was as large as the entire residential zone in the city’s South End waterfront neighborhood. He said if that person were to divide the land into numerous lots under the existing standards, it would forever change the rural part of the city.
The current zoning proposal has been changed from a package that was met with criticism from the public last month. The revised zoning proposal no longer encompasses properties fronting Old County Road, Lake Avenue or Lake View Drive (Route 17).
The latest zoning package still requires that subdivisions in the proposed rural residential zone be limited to clustered housing developments.
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson, however, said the changes were not necessary. Dickerson, who lives on West Meadow Road in the region affected by the proposed zone change, said residents on that road simply want to be able to live without further interference from the city.
The zone change was approved 4-1 in the preliminary vote. A formal public hearing and final vote are scheduled for Sept. 9.
Councilor Eric Hebert said he would support the measure in the preliminary vote to allow further discussion, but he also expressed reservations. Hebert said the minimum lot sizes were too large in the proposal.
“I don’t see any advantages to rezoning land west of Old County Road,” Hebert said. “There’s no urgency.”
Old County Road resident Steve Carroll agreed in comments he made during the public comment session of the Monday night council meeting.
“I support diversity in zoning, not segregation. This supports segregation,” Carroll said.
He said the region currently has a mix of residential and small commercial properties, but the proposed zone changes would separate those.
Isganitis said that the city should develop zoning that meets the aspirations of the community and that it should not wait for a major development to be proposed that could negatively impact the region before considering zone changes.
Dickerson said the zoning package was addressing a non-issue instead of dealing with potential commercial development along Old County Road that could be generated by the increased traffic that will result when the new Wal-Mart superstore opens in neighboring Thomaston.
In other action Monday night, the council voted 4-1 to approve 3 percent pay raises for the city manager, city attorney and city clerk.
Councilor Hebert noted that the raises are in line with what unionized city employees received.
Councilor Dickerson voted against the raises. She said Tuesday morning that she voted against the raises because the city just laid off employees. She said if she just laid people off, she couldn’t accept a raise.
The council also gave final approval Monday night to selling two pieces of city-owned property. The properties include 9 Pine St. which is being sold to Mid-Coast Habitat for Humanity Inc. for $15,000 and 67 Warren St. which is being sold to adjacent property owner Orion Boshes for $3,000. The Pine Street property consists of a dilapidated 632-square-foot house and one-tenth of an acre. The Warren Street property consists of one-tenth of an acre with a 24-by-28-foot old garage.