Naples puts form-based codes on ice

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — After a lengthy discussion with diverse opinions expressed, the Naples Board of Selectmen’s official vote was 3–1 in favor of putting form-based codes on ice — for the time being.

In 2011, the Town of Naples had been approached by the then Bridgton Economic Development Director Alan Manoian, who touted the benefits of adopting form-based codes.

Several months ago, Manoian gave a presentation on the function of form-based codes, and offered his services if the town decided to pursue the change. At that time, the board accepted his offer; and, a committee was formed with the task of reviewing form-based codes.

Since that time, Manoian retired from his position in Bridgton and moved from his Maine home.

On Monday night — when the selectmen talked again about form-based codes, there was a fiscal note attached to it. And, board members changed their tune from move ahead to put on the brakes for the time being.

According to Town Manager Derik Goodine, Manoian had proposed a cost of $700 per 30 hours — to cover the expenses of driving back and forth. Goodine estimated it would take 90 hours of Manoian’s consultation time as the Form-based Codes Committee committed to weekly meetings for a three-month duration.

An additional $2,000 was likely more money than it might cost to hire a sketch artist to create renderings of styles of building exteriors for businesses in different areas of town, Goodine said.

“It was very important to put the cost out in front of the project,” he said during a phone interview on Tuesday.

“If the board had approved the money, then, the committee would have met again next week,” he said.

“At first this was something they wanted to pursue, now it is ‘wait and see.’ My worry is if we wait, we may not be able to get such a good price from Alan (Manoian),” Goodine said.

The motion, which was made by Selectman Rick Paraschak, stated the town would not spend the money on the creation and adoption of form-based codes.

Chairman Christine Powers cast the minority vote, saying that the community members supported the town adopting a code that would guide developers and business owners as to how the exterior of the business would appear, including parking lot location and landscaping.

“I am hearing from people that they love the idea” of form-based codes, Powers said.

The time to get the codes on the books is now, she said. Any change to the ordinance would require voter’s approval at Special Town Meeting.

“We should do this while we are creating a new space on the Causeway. We have changed the look of our downtown. We are making it more of a walker’s community. I think it is a natural segue to look at it now,” Powers said, “and, the cost is right.”

She added that numerous residents support the concept of form-based codes.

Selectman Dana Watson said he has heard complaints about the proposed form-based codes.

“The ones who are talking to me are not that happy,” he said.

Watson also disliked the unexpected costs, which seemed like an abrupt change. Originally, the work had been promised free-of-charge, he said.

“That’s the only reason I said start. He was doing it for free,” Watson said.

Selectman Bob Caron Sr. said he objected less to the money and more to adding the burden of additional rules to local developer’s shoulders.

Shortly before a vote on the motion, Caron said, “It isn’t the $4,100. It’s the principal of it.”

“I understand codes and how hard they can be to understand. They have loopholes. Sometimes, they need legal interpretation,” Caron said.

“We don’t need more codes,” he said, adding form-based codes would take away from the freedom of the business owners.

Chairman Powers disagreed.

“Your fear is that. My fear is that we are taking things away from the people who are here, and want to have a voice” in how the Naples business district takes shape, she said.

Powers predicted the issue would surface again. “I do think people are going to ask us to do this. I don’t think we will get this price again,” she said.

“A large segment of the public wants some say in how Naples will look” as commercial development continues, she said.

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