Board, Point Sebago talk residency limits, illegal basements

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer
CASCO — The many coves and beaches of Big Sebago Lake have long been a draw to people. Some have homes; some have businesses; some have camps along the shores of the 45-square-mile lake.
In South Casco, Point Sebago Enterprises has developed a golf course, a campground with 440 sites, and three-season houses that are privately-owned.
While the development of the land around that part of the lake began prior to the 1970s, it was not until 1992 that Point Sebago entered into a contract zone agreement with the Town of Casco.
Point Sebago’s original development plan was to build resort cottages and modest-sized homes that people could purchase as a second home. These structures are situated on lots with very little “elbow room.” The smaller lot sizes allowed more homes to be built.
One specific clause of the contract zone is that these homes were intended for part-time residency. The buildings were designed as three-season, not year-round, housing units.
This year, Point Sebago’s contract zone is up for renewal since the most recent 10-year agreement was signed in 2005.
According to Casco Town Planner Jim Seymour, essentially the specifics of the contract zone are wide open for discussion and change. Also, Point Sebago should submit a site plan for the remaining homes it wishes to construct in the next 10-year period.
Ultimately, any proposed amendments to this contract zone must be approved by Casco residents at a Town Meeting in June. Therefore, the planning board has been working within a timeline to get a finalized product prepared before the Town Meeting.
The board met on Monday night, and its next scheduled meeting is on Feb. 9.
A topic that has frequently come to the table is the concern that homeowners might be staying longer than allowed. That would be a violation of the contract zone agreement.
That occupancy time frame has expanded over the years. According to the most recent amendment to the contract zone, residents are allowed to stay for seven months between April 15 and Nov. 15. For the remainder of the year, from November 15 – April 15, the homeowners are permitted to stay at the home for 60 days.
During a phone interview on Tuesday, Point Sebago Resort Assistant General Manager Clifton Bartlett explained the occupancy rules.
“From April 15 through November 15, the homeowners can be there 100% of the time, which is a seven-month period. During the other five months, Nov. 15 thru April 15, they can be there for 60 days,” Bartlett said.
“They don’t have to be consecutive, which could make it hard to track,” he said.
The property could be occupied for 365 days, but (the property) cannot be occupied by the homeowner for more than nine months, he said.
“It’s a second home community. We have a few retirees who have made that their primary residence,” he said, adding that a few of those retired couples opt to stay at Point Sebago through the New Year.
Regardless of the departure date, the majority of Point Sebago homeowners go south or west of the State of Maine for the winter, he said.
“We thought there would be a strong market for people who want to spend time here during the winter. When homeowners buy here, they are buying for the summer season. They don’t care about the winter,” Bartlett said.
“It really is a second home community,” he said.
During Monday’s meeting, Bartlett told the board, “There is no issue with people being on the resort all winter long.”
Later, during the discussion, board member Ray Grant said that he has heard that people are living there year-round, but they are renting.
Chairman Lynne Potter expressed her concern about homes on the horizon; those larger, more insulated homes would make it even more tempting for people to extend their winter stay. Although, she did say that the majority of the Point Sebago housing units had been winterized and shuttered for the off-season.
In addition to a limit of number of months a home can be occupied by one party, there is also a limitation of six people who can stay overnight. During the day, up to 10 guests are permitted into the gated community.
Also, during Monday’s meeting, the board discussed bringing basements up to code; and how that could be done.
If basements, that were not built to be bedrooms, had been finished by the homeowner, then those are likely in violation of building codes. Some of the early models of the home did not have egress windows in the basement to discourage people from creating another room, or more “livable space.”
Town Planner Seymour suggested that when homes went up for sale, those units could be inspected to make sure those building codes were not in violation.
He said not only was it a violation of state and municipal building codes, but also it was a safety issue, a potential fire trap for people sleeping in those spaces
Secondarily, that 300 feet of living space should be reported; that is property tax money that the Town of Casco is not collecting.
According to Point Sebago Manager Don Toms, early models have basements with a ceiling height of 5’ 10” and legally the space cannot be finished. However, that hasn’t stopped homeowners who desired more room when family and friends come to visit.
Bartlett said that there are 40 homes in the Deer Run development that could feasibly have an illegal basement.
There was some talk about the future development of the 15 to 16 lots located near Hole 10 of the Golf Course.
According to General Manager Toms, the topography of the undeveloped land is heavily forested. He said the plan is to forego the basements when constructing the larger homes.
Seymour suggested Point Sebago put the plan for the new homes in writing.
“Propose language to us that shows how you are addressing the basement. It is your application. (You) nail it down with more detail. Life and safety is first and foremost. Next is doing something that won’t have living space over 900 feet,” Seymour said.
Board member Grant said “That would alleviate some of my concerns.”
If the homes don’t have a basement, that would eliminate the temptation for propertyowners to illegally create a living space, he said.

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