Point Sebago asks for 10 years to build homes

THESE 900-SQUARE-FOOT vacation homes are one the phases of development at Point Sebago. Currently, the Casco Planning Board is reviewing the renewal of a contract zone agreement between the Town and Point Sebago Enterprises. (De Busk Photo) NW dd2 PHOTO for Point Sebago MAINE ESCAPE COTTAGE ON TINY LOT THIS RESORT COTTAGE is an example of the 700-square-foot seasonal homes, which are privately-owned on property managed by Point Sebago Enterprises. The blue ribbon tied to the column on the porch indicates that the driveway will be plowed; and likely homeowners, their guests or people paying for a weekend getaway will use the home during the winter. (De Busk Photo)

THESE 900-SQUARE-FOOT vacation homes are one the phases of development at Point Sebago. Currently, the Casco Planning Board is reviewing the renewal of a contract zone agreement between the Town and Point Sebago Enterprises. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer
CASCO — With four or five months left to put the item before the voters at the regular Town Meeting, the Casco Planning Board has been reviewing the renewal of a contract zone agreement between the Town and Point Sebago Enterprises.
The next planning board meeting will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 12. It starts at 7 p.m. at the Casco Community Center.
Following this meeting, there will be a series of planning board meetings before the contract zone agreement lands on the agenda of the Casco Board of Selectmen. Also, as part of the process, there will be a joint meeting of the two boards. All meetings are open to the public as the renewed contract zone takes shape as a warrant item for the Town Meeting.
On a Saturday in mid-December, members of the board took a site walk — or rather a site drive that covered the acres of land owned by Point Sebago, and set aside as seasonal resort cottages and 900-square-foot vacation homes that are intended for temporary residency.
The following Wednesday, Dec. 17, the planning board convened and discussed aspects of the “site walk,” according to Chairman Lynne Potter.
One of the issues the board talked about was that the temporary residency clause of the existing contract zone states that owners of the cottages and vacation homes can only reside there a certain number of months.
There are concerns, rumors and mumblings from people in the community that this stipulation of the contract zone has been, and is being, violated, Potter said.
She recapped some highlights of the December planning board meeting.
“We primarily did a report of what we saw during the site walk. We saw the various neighborhoods and the water treatment plant,” she said.
“One of our concerns is the fact that some people might be staying there year-round, and ways we could monitor that,” Potter said.
“One of the ways was to monitor it by the water output. That records the water output, but not who uses it. They could be staying there for a month. Then, someone else is staying there and using water,” she said.
The board discussed more accurate ways to monitor the people who are staying in the homes — to make sure they do not pass the allotted number of days that one party is allowed to reside in these privately-owned seasonal dwellings, she said.
According to the Casco Code Enforcement Office, in the original contract, which was finalized in October 1992, the Point Sebago homes were declared seasonal use only. Specifically, “there was to be no use between November and April.”
That was amended in June 1997, to state that all “condominium sites could be used from November through April on a limited use basis.” Those six months were limited to 60 days. At that time, roads would be plowed for emergency vehicle access, the contract zone document said.
“They can’t stay there year-round, but they can use it during the wintertime,” Potter said, adding this makes it more difficult to monitor the activity.
“If someone is staying there year-round, we wouldn’t know it,” she said.
“We discussed key cards for the gate,” she said.
This upcoming Tuesday, the board will continue to discuss ways to keep track of violations of this specific agreement in the contract zone.
The next phase of development for Point Sebago Enterprises is the construction of 1,200-square-foot homes. That square footage was permitted in the previous contract zone agreement.
Those up-and-coming structures will be constructed as four-season homes with more heating and better insulation than the earlier three-season homes, Potter said.
Potter’s concern is that with the larger homes, that are more adapted for winter conditions, “it would be more enticing for people to break the rules.”
“It was never meant to be a year-round development, because year-round developments have different requirements, different distances between buildings,” she said.
“Because this is a resort area, and because these are part-time residents, a lot of the zoning and building requirements did not need to be implemented,” she said.
“Because it is a seasonal vacation home, it does not have the same requirements that a single-family home would have,” she said.
For example, smaller lot sizes are among the exceptions that were given to Point Sebago in previous contract zone agreements. Homeowners “cannot store boats in their yards. The lots are small lots. There isn’t a whole lot of room there,” Potter said.
“The other major issue is living space, and what constitutes as living space. The first cottages had a basement that wasn’t the required height. It was done on purpose so it could not be a livable space. Now, people are raising homes and using the basement space,” she said.
“If it is (going to be) a livable basement space, it has to have egresses, windows,” she said.
As part of the new contract zone, the board will have to define “livable space,” Potter said.
The planning board’s schedule is to hold monthly meetings to review and revise the contract zone.
On Tuesday, Town Manager Dave Morton briefly discussed the contract zone renewal with the Casco Board of Selectmen. He said the selectmen and members of the planning board should select a date to meet jointly with nothing on the agenda but the contract zone renewal. That date has yet to be set. Likely, some ordinance amendment will be discussed — as a separate issue — when the two boards convene.
Morton said the planning board should hear the selectmen’s concerns and comments on this time-sensitive matter.
Potter also stressed keeping to a timeline.
“This contract zone ends in 2015, and they have more building that they want to do. In order to that, they have to get the contract zone extended,” she said.
Point Sebago is “only selling three new homes a year. The economy tanked while the last 10-year contract zone” was in place, she said.
Point Sebago is “asking for permission to extend it another 10 years.”

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