Bridgton to vote on zoning changes for downtown district

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

This Tuesday, December 13, voters will determine the future of development in downtown Bridgton, when they go to the polls to decide whether to approve amendments to two local ordinances — Shoreland Zoning and Site Plan Review.

Voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Town Hall on North High Street.

The Bridgton Board of Selectmen and the Bridgton Planning Board held back-to-back public hearings in late October and then held a joint meeting the same evening on the proposed ordinance changes.

Under the proposed changes, there would be two separate districts in Downtown Bridgton — General Development I District and General Development II District.

The viability of a proposed $4 million 21-unit senior housing development at the former Chapter 11 building on Main Street proposed by AVESTA Housing is at stake, as well as potential commercial development in the downtown corridor.

Bridgton’s outgoing Economic and Community Development Director, Alan Manoian, has said the future of development in the downtown area hinges on these proposed ordinance changes being approved by voters in the special referendum Dec. 13.

“This would allow for good quality mixed use development, and it would be instrumental in getting the economic engine of downtown Bridgton going again,” Manoian said Oct. 25, during the public hearing on both ordinance amendments. Manoian also clarified that evening that the proposed changes apply only to a specific area in downtown Bridgton.

The proposed amendments to the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance are applicable “exclusively to what is known as the Downtown General Development District,” Manioan said. “It would be a two-tier district.”

In the more densely developed General Development II District, “the parcels are historically small and (some) are completely asphalted,” Manoian stated. “Right now, the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance stipulates 50,000 square feet of land per residential unit,” town-wide, he said. However, because there is a “unified wastewater disposal system and public water, we are proposing to drop the 50,000-square-foot requirement down to 1,000 square feet of land per bedroom (in the General Development II District),” said Manoian.

The proposed General Development I District “is a little less intensely developed — the parcels are larger — and in our meetings with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (that must approve all changes made to a town’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance) they have been stressing they want to see a two-tier approach and phase in gradually.”

Changes proposed to the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance include:

• Page 15, Sec. 14 — Table of Land Uses — change General Development District to General Development I District and General Development II District, so the phraseology stays consistent with the table that follows, with the following footnote to GD II District: “Except for #20 private sewage disposal systems for allowed uses which shall be prohibited in GD II District, all other approvals are as stipulated in GD I District.”

• Section 15 — Land Uses Subsection A. Minimum Lot Standards — General Development I District, insert the words: “5,000 square feet or 5,000 square feet per bedroom, which ever is greater.” General Development II District — insert the following: “5,000 square feet or 1,000 square feet per bedroom, which ever is greater.*” The asterisk equals: “Wherever situated in whole or in part, the requirements set forth for the General Development II District shall apply.”

Proposed changes to the Site Plan Review Ordinance include:

• Article XIII — Design Standards — Section 1 — Lot Size and Dimensions — add to #2 at the end “or less as per subsection 5.a, below.”

• Subsection 5.a. — Delete all of the 5.a. amendment and insert the following: “The minimum lot size for structures and buildings in the General Development I District and the general Development II District as referred to in the Town of Bridgton Shoreland Zoning Ordinance shall apply.”

• Subsection 5.b. Delete all of the 5.b. amendment and insert the following revision: “Where a non-conforming lot in the General Development I District or General Development II District is less than the standard, the Planning Board may approve a change of use so long as the ratio of one bedroom for each 1,000 square feet of lot area is met and the lot is connected to the downtown municipal wastewater system and the Bridgton Water District water system.”

• Section 10 — Special Regulations — a section proposed to be deleted will remain as is. It states: “Minimum side and rear setback 2 feet.”

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