Bridgton selectmen debate scope of new Corridor Development committee

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer
Bridgton Selectmen took their first, somewhat halting, steps toward the creation of town-wide zoning districts Tuesday as they debated the name of a new committee to implement future land use recommendations in the Comprehensive Plan.
At issue was a draft mission and charge prepared by Town Manager Bob Peabody for a new “Route 302 Corridor Development Ad Hoc Committee” that would study the creation of a zoning district governing development from Pondicherry Square to the Naples town line.
A majority of the board felt the committee should study the entire Route 302 corridor, including the downtown and north to the Fryeburg town line. Opinions were more divided, however, on expanding the study to include other downtown gateways, including the approaches from North Bridgton along Route 117 and South Bridgton along Route 107.
Selectman Paul Hoyt was the main proponent of the idea that the committee’s scope ought to be narrowly defined.
“I’d like to keep it simple,” said Hoyt, “and first focus (on Route 302) to the Naples town line. This is what we wanted to start with, and I want to stay with it.” It was this stretch of highway, known as the Portland Road, where residents saw the greatest need for regulations to guide growth, when McDonald’s restaurant came to town in 2011.
Selectman Bob McHatton pointed out that voters might balk at regulations applying to other areas of town.
“The people wanted Route 302 and Route 117 zoned, and I think that would pass fairly easily,” McHatton said. “If you talk (more broadly), I think it will be thrown out.”
Peabody showed his awareness of Bridgton’s repeal of zoning in the 1970s by saying, “Am I allowed to use the word ‘zoning’?” Resident Glen “Bear” Zaidman, a member of the Comprehensive Plan Committee, said the regulations envisioned in the plan would not be the same as traditional Euclidian zoning.
“It’s time for all of us to pull our pants up and say this is zoning, but it doesn’t have to be old-style Euclidian zoning,” Zaidman said. Instead, growth would be encouraged where it is most appropriate, discouraged where it is not.
For example, he said, the proposed but stalled “Three-ring binder” project would have brought high-speed Internet service down Route 107 to Sandy Creek and along Portland Road to the downtown.
Peabody said the committee’s work should include recognition of plans for a sewer expansion that would service more than just the Route 302 corridor. The mission and charge of the committee, as initially drafted, states that it “is charged with developing ordinances and/or applicable regulations governing future development of the defined Route 302 corridor.”
But Zaidman and fellow CPC member Lucia Terry cautioned against limiting the committee’s work to one corridor. Terry said, “You can’t pick a part of town and spot-zone it.”
Anne Krieg, director of planning, economic and community development, agreed.
“If the (committee’s) work is zoning, it has to be comprehensive” in order to be legally enforceable, she said. She said zoning just one corridor would leave the others unprotected from development, and that’s just bad planning.
A secondary issue raised during the discussion was Krieg’s role in the committee’s work. The draft charge states that Krieg’s role would be to “function as staff for the committee,” and Hoyt felt that was wrong.
“She should lead the committee. She has the expertise, and that’s what we hired her for.”
Selectman Doug Taft disagreed, saying to Krieg, “I don’t want to see you get so overloaded where you lose focus” on some of her many other responsibilities.
For her own part, Krieg said, “I do see myself as much more active, more participatory,” than simply as staff support. Whenever any committee is involved in drafting language for a legal document, she said, “The role of the planner does get enhanced.” Typically the committee says “we want an ordinance that does this,” and the planner writes it up and brings it back for discussion and refinement, she said.
Krieg also noted that the state likes to see the land use plan portion of a Comprehensive Plan implemented within two years.
Board Chairman Bernie King favored giving the committee a broader, more general charge, and suggested it simply be called “The Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee.”
Zaidman, who wants to serve on the new committee, said giving the committee a broader charge isn’t the same as giving it too much authority. Any recommendations will have to come to selectmen, who would have the final say on whether to send the zoning regulations to voters for their approval. He said former CPC members are anxious to get going on the task.
“We’d be like your workhorses,” he told the board.
Selectmen tabled any decision until their next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 27.

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