Comp Plan calls for six zoning districts

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Cautiously, methodically, after over two years of meetings, members of Bridgton’s Comprehensive Plan Committee have prepared the first draft of a chapter they hope voters will buy into this November.

It’s Chapter 5, titled Land Use Regulations, otherwise known as zoning. Its draft language states that the 2004 Plan created the framework for townwide zoning — and now, with the 2014 Plan, its time to implement that zoning.

Anne Krieg, Bridgton’s director of planning, economic and community development, appeared before the Bridgton Planning Board last month to encourage its members to study what the committee is proposing; namely, the creation of six defined zoning districts, as follows:

• Downtown Village Business District

• Village Residential Neighborhood Areas

• Inner Corridor Areas

• Outer Corridor Areas

• Lakeside Neighborhood Areas

• Rural Village Neighborhood Areas

“We’re adding zoning to the town, so it’s important to get feedback from you,” Krieg told the board. After the board has studied the draft, Krieg said she would like to see both the board and the committee hold a joint meeting to discuss its proposals in more detail.

Public workshops on the updated Plan are planned for March, after which the CPC will make its initial presentation to the Board of Selectmen in April. More fine-tuning will follow before the CPC will be ready to hold its own formal public hearing on the Plan on June 9. That hearing will be followed by another hearing, held by selectmen, on July 22, with a second public hearing on Sept. 23 just before the Nov. 4 vote on the Plan.

Krieg said the state review of comprehensive plans “is very stringent” in requiring adequate notice and hearings for public comment. The Plan outlines in a general manner the amount and types of development that should be encouraged or discouraged within each district. Krieg said if the Plan passes muster with voters and the state, the implementation phase should ideally follow soon after. “You don’t want to have the limbo period be too long,” she said.

Board Chairman Steve Collins agreed. “I’ve seen two comprehensive plans kind of grind to a halt because they haven’t followed up on the process,” he said.

Board member Dee Miller asked if the CPC would stay intact as a committee after the Plan is presented, to work on the implementation phase. Collins said the CPC is advocating that it remain as a standing committee.

Krieg said whether the CPC would stay intact after November “is still up for discussion,” but that they’ve pulled back from initial discussions that favored use of form-based code as a regulatory tool.

“They’re not using that language (form-based code) because they want it to be very Bridgton-centered,” Krieg said. “I think in the end what they’re looking at is a hybrid code, where some things are handled through traditional Euclidian zoning, like frontage, but others are viewed by not so much looking at use as how the property is developed,” she added.

The draft language for the Plan’s land use sections acknowledges that while the 2004 Plan had as one of its “neighborhood values” the prohibition of “big box” development, such a blanket prohibition is no longer advisable, given the 2010 vote not to prohibit fast food or big box development.

“This vote was a catalyst for the Town to move again toward some kind of development plan. There was concern then especially for the management of growth along Portland Street, at risk of becoming a bleak commercial strip, and an unappealing approach to the Downtown,” the Plan states.

“While Bridgton still contains a great deal of open land and is still essentially a rural community, the call for a comprehensive approach to development, to both encourage it and to have control of what and where and how it looks is clear. Through careful planning, the Town can retain its rural character while embracing new development,” the Plan states. It continues:

“That careful planning begins here with demand for development standards in the growth areas of the Downtown and the corridors of Routes 302 and 117, and growing support for zoning across the rural neighborhoods. Accordingly, this Plan suggests methods for retaining rural character and a strategy for enhancing housing, retail activity, and cultural and recreational opportunities both in the downtown village and throughout the corridors in and out of town in order to create meaningful growth areas, attract new business for a more vibrant economy, and further enhance the quality of life here in Bridgton.”

 

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