Housing projects not considered commercial uses

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Legal advice obtained by the town of Bridgton indicates that residential-only housing projects are not commercial uses, and therefore would not be permitted on lots of 20,000 square feet or greater, under a Site Plan Review ordinance amendment given a public hearing by the Bridgton Planning Board Tuesday.

It is also legally permissible to include a retroactivity clause in the amendment, the advice stated, although the proper chapter of state law should be cited in the amendment if it is presented to voters in June.

The board recessed Tuesday’s public hearing on the proposed new Village Center District overlay zone until this Thursday, March 23, in order to finalize language on the proposal. The amendment, as proposed by the Comprehensive Plan Committee, will then be passed on to selectmen, who will consider at their meeting next Tuesday, March 27 whether to hold a public hearing and have residents vote on it in June.

On Tuesday, member Dee Miller again expressed her concern that the amendment not have “unintended consequences” and wondered whether the language should be made more explicit to allow for lobbies, elevators and other uses that might be needed for retail or professional use on the ground floor.

Ann Knightly wondered whether the change would be too broad if, as proposed, it would apply to every building in a new downtown Village Center District overlay zone, extending from Main Hill to Kansas Road at Lower Main Street, and also extending up Portland Road a short distance. “Does that make sense for every building in downtown?” She noted that there were a good many empty commercial spaces on ground floors already.

Member Ken Murphy said that historically, downtown properties have always been of a mixed use.

Board Chairman Steve Collins said questions that speak to the “overall wisdom of the amendment” would more properly be raised at the selectmen’s public hearing, and that the board’s role was to ensure that the amendment’s language does not conflict with other areas of the ordinance.

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