Councilors sign off on Intown Design Review Ordinance changes

By Ben Holbrook | Feb 25, 2013
Photo by: Ben Holbrook The red line shows the boundaries for the area for Type 1 Permits subject to the Intown Design Review Ordinance. The blue line shows the former boundary for Type 1 Permits subject to the Intown Design Review Ordinance.

Belfast — City Councilors adopted amendments to the Intown Design Review Ordinance at their Feb. 19 meeting after tabling the issue for nearly six months.

The Intown Design Review Ordinance was established in 2001 as a means to preserve the character of the city for all nonresidential buildings within the Route 1 bypass. The review process required any proposal to construct a new building, change the exterior of an existing building or demolish an existing building to go through a review process.

When the design review ordinance was created, applicants were required to go through the design review process, but were not required to adopt any of the recommendations made by the Design Review Committee — a process referred to as “mandatory participation — voluntary compliance.”

In 2008, councilors amended the ordinance to require that applicants for a Type 1 Permit for a limited section of the downtown be required to participate in the design review process and adopt any recommendations made by the committee — “mandatory participation — mandatory compliance.”

As part of the 2008 amendment, however, councilors included a provision that required a vote in 2012 to reauthorize the “mandatory participation — mandatory compliance.” If a vote to reauthorize the provision failed or did not occur then the design review process reverted to the 2001 standard of “mandatory participation — voluntary compliance” for all permit applicants.

In August of 2012, councilors opted to table discussion regarding the design review ordinance, which meant the review process for applicants reverted to the “mandatory participation — voluntary compliance” provision.

City Planner Wayne Marshall explained to councilors the amendments to the ordinance re-establish the Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 permits, which were in effect from 2008 to August 2012; establishes the types of improvements and the area subject to Type 1 Permits, which includes the downtown, commercial, waterfront 1A and waterfront mixed use zoning districts.

The amendments also re-establishes the appeals process for Type 1 Permit applicants; changes the standards that property owners must satisfy when proposing to demolish an existing building; clarifies the types of building renovations subject to Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 Permits; and makes minor changes to the process for selecting committee members and the organization of the meeting.

Marshall noted the Penobscot McCrum manufacturing plant, Belfast Center, Belfast Common and Steamboat Landing Park are exempt from Type 1 Permit review.

Councilor Mary Mortier asked for clarification from Marshall regarding what type of work would not trigger the design review process, and what type of work would trigger the review process.

Marshall explained that a building with a shingle roof that is being re-shingled would not trigger the design review process because the same building materials are being used that were previously in place.

However, he said the Waldo County Superior Courthouse, which previously had a slate roof, changed to a shingle roof and that alteration triggered the design review process.

Marshall also explained that a person who rents a property within one of the districts subject to design review, must first obtain written permission from the owner before the city will consider any proposals from the renter.

Councilor Roger Lee noted the role of the Design Review Committee is not to determine whether they like or dislike a proposal, but to make sure there is consistency in the character of the building. Councilor Mike Hurley, who acknowledged he was not a fan of the ordinance at first, said he could support it if it allowed property owners to still design interesting buildings.

“I was against this before I was for it,” Hurley said.

The amendments to the ordinance were approved unanimously by councilors.

To review the ordinance in its entirety go to library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=13393&stateId=19&stateName=Maine

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com

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