City amends contract rezoning ordinance for Route 3 Commercial District
Belfast — City councilors accepted a second reading of proposed amendments to the Route 3 Commercial District rezoning process that applies to large retail store developments.
The bulk of the proposed amendments to the Route 3 Commercial District address a 2007 state law— the “Informed Growth Act”— that required an economic and community impact study to be conducted for any application for a retail space that is 75,000 square feet or larger.
At about the same time the state was enacting the “Informed Growth Act” Belfast was crafting an ordinance for addressing large retail spaces to gain as much control as possible over the process. The city's ordinance identified an 84-acre parcel of land on Route 3 near Crocker Road, across from the Bank of America facility, which is owned by B & G Properties LLC, as a potential site for a large retail store.
The city's ordinance established a requirement that an applicant seeking to develop on the Route 3 parcel would be subject to a review through the contract rezoning process and the applicant would have to prepare a master plan that identifies all developments that would be proposed for the property.
The ordinance also stated that the city would implement provisions of the “Informed Growth Act” into the local ordinance; namely the provision that required the community and economic impact study in regards to the development of a large retail space, and that the cost of conducting the study — around $40,000 — would be paid by the applicant and prepared by an independent certified preparer selected by the state or city.
However, in 2011, the legislature repealed the “Informed Growth Act,” but the city did not amend its own ordinance at that time. City Planner Wayne Marshall explained to councilors that the proposed amendments are a retooling to reflect the state's decision to rescind the law.
He went on to explain that the amendments eliminate references to the “Informed Growth Act” while retaining the provision that an applicant proposing a large retail development must provide funds to the city, which would be used to prepare the community and economic impact study.
That study would address such issues as the economic effects of the proposed development on existing retail operations; supply and demand for retail space; number and location of existing retail establishments where there is an overlap of goods and services offered; employment, including projected net job creation and loss; retail wages and benefits; captured share of existing retail sales; and sales revenue retained and reinvested in the local area.
The study would also address the municipal revenues generated; municipal capital, service and maintenance costs caused by the development's construction and operation, including costs of road, traffic control and pedestrian and bicycle amenities; municipal capital, service and maintenance costs caused by the development's construction and operation, including costs of police, fire, rescue and sewer service; the amount of public subsidies, including tax increment financing; and public water, utility, sewage disposal and solid waste disposal capacity.
Councilor Roger Lee questioned Marshall as to why the time to submit a traffic impact study was reduced from 75 days to 45 days. Marshal noted when MBNA opened its offices in Belfast, the company conducted what he described as a “complex” traffic study that was completed within 30 days. He said a developer would also be able to ask for more time to complete the study if they needed.
During a public hearing, residents questioned the timing of the ordinance amendments and whether the changes would take into account nearby property owners. Slocum said he initiated discussions about making amendments to the ordinance because the changes were not made two years ago when the “Informed Growth Act” was rescinded.
Hurley commented that there are no plans before the council regarding a large retail development, but the potential for such a development still exists.
Andrea Chartier asked the council if the ordinance requires an environmental study, stating there are a number of wetlands in the area of the property. Marshall said environmental issues would be addressed during the application review.
Chartier also commented that the ordinance should address nearby property owners because any development would be taking place in her back yard.
“I'd really hate to see it turned into a Wal-Mart,” Chartier said of the property near her home.
Lee responded by saying the ordinance establishes a process for property owners to address any concerns about a development.
Councilors voted unanimously to accept the second reading of the proposed ordinance amendments.
Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at email@example.com.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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