Ordinance changes to go to voters

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

Bridgton voters will decide in mid-December whether to approve proposed amendments to two local ordinances — Shoreland Zoning and Site Plan Review — that would allow more development in the Downtown District.

The Bridgton Planning Board unanimously recommended forwarding the proposed ordinance changes, as amended, to the Bridgton Board of Selectmen Tuesday night. A short while later, the selectmen voted unanimously to set Dec. 13 as the date for a special referendum to vote on them.

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

It was a round robin, Tuesday night, as the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen held separate, back-to-back public hearings in adjoining rooms on the proposed ordinance changes.

At stake is 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, as well as other commercial projects that may come along seeking to locate in the downtown corridor.

Alan Manoian, Bridgton’s Econmoic and Community Development Director, said the future of development in the downtown area would hinge on these changes being passed by voters in the special referendum vote set for 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. “We’re lacking people living in the downtown, but if you add employees, residents and visitors, that’s when you get a critical mass of folks and people who say they want to open a business downtown…It is time for us to take the next step. We don’t want to see line after line of vacant storefronts. Now is the time for us to step up.”

Manoian made it clear Oct. 25 that the proposed ordinance 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 13, Sec. 13 — Establishments of Districts — C. General Development District — pluralize the term “General Development District.”

• 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 — B.1. All structures abutting the main road beginning at Mt. Henry Road to Garden Way and School Street to the Monument on Main Hill, (add) also known as the Downtown District (end of add on) shall meet the following standards (See Downtown Site Plan District Map). Also, a section proposed to be deleted will remain as is. It states: “Minimum side and rear setback 2 feet.”

A change originally proposed to the Site Plan Review Ordinance regarding parking requirements will stay as is, with no changes. It reads: “Applicants may satisfy parking requirements by entering into a written agreement with another property owner or through the utilization of municipal parking lots allowing for overnight and winter parking. The applicant must demonstrate to the Planning Board a long-term lease or other arrangement within close proximity of the proposed development site. The lease or other arrangement must have a duration of at least five (5) years plus two consecutive five (5) year automatic renewal periods.”

Steve Stevens asked, at the selectmen’s public hearing, if there is actually enough capacity at the town’s leach fields to accommodate future development of any size.

Manoian said the Lower Ballfield leach field has been re-licensed by the DEP and there is now “21,000 gallons plus available.”

Right now, the actual usage that should be going in to the Lower Ballfield is 5,138 gallons,” said Manoian. “So, we have 15,000 gallons per day.”

The inflow and infiltration survey that is being performed by the Portland engineering firm of Wright-Pierce “will find out where the issues and problems are,” Manoian said. “Then, we are going to issue 30-day notices to repair (to the sewer system user) and if there is a hardship, we can use funds from the very healthy Enterprise Fund and then put a lien on that property.”

Wastewater Committee Chairman Ray Turner announced that his committee would be meeting with the Bridgton Community Development Committee members on Oct. 26 to discuss how to plan for future sewer disposal fields.

Selectman Doug Taft asked Manoian what would happen if the leach fields were not able to sustain the amount of inflow, as projected.

“What’s our Plan B, Alan — to add to the present system or wait to do crisis-type management?”

“The first part of the (Oct. 26) meeting with the Wastewater Committee and the Community Development Committee is to identify the right (future) parcels,” Manoian replied.

“We’ve been working on this, for three years,” said Manoian, of improvements made to the municipal sewer system. “Bridgton should be proud of the fact the DEP — with the town’s newly-built beds and technology chambers — says some of the cleanest (sewerage) water they’ve seen is right here in Bridgton.”

“I’ll meet the question head-on,” said Bridgton Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said. “If we did nothing to our system today, and found the meters were (reading) consistently over, we would stop any further (additional) usage and would, in effect, stagnate development. That’s why we did the beds and got approval (from the DEP) within 60 days. At some point, we’re going to run out again.”

Selectman Bernie King suggested the implementation of what Manoian termed an impact fee, for future sewer users.

“It’s known as an impact fee,” said Manoian. “In order to develop, you have to pay up. Bridgton has never taken that course. It’s a judgment call, as to how it would be received in the development community. Again, this is the first town I’ve served in that doesn’t have impact fees.”

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