Hearing on proposed zoning changes emphasizes residential development

By Dan West | Jul 08, 2014

Belfast — The Belfast Planning Board recntly conducted the second of three public hearings on proposed changes to city zoning ordinances inside the bypass.

City Planner Wayne Marshall gave a 45 minute-long presentation on proposed changes to the city's Residential 2 and 3 Zone July 2 at which he stressed the need for new multifamily housing development in Belfast.

"In 16 years not one individual has constructed a new multifamily housing structure in Belfast," Marshall said. "At some point that is going to harm the community and its ability to attract new workers."

In order to allow for more residential construction, Marshall said, the city is proposing to allow two new uses in the R-2 zone — new multifamily home construction and allowing an apartment above the garage of a single family home.

The size of the R-2 zone is being narrowed, but also deepened, along the Route 1 bypass, said Marshall. It has also had healthcare facility or offices removed as an allowed use.

Healthcare facilities and doctors offices will now only be allowed in the Residential 3 Zone, which is centered around Waldo County General Hospital. One major change had been made to this zone since the start of the public hearing process, which that it will not include Seaview Terrace residents who brought concerns to the city council at its June 17 meeting. Seaview Terrace will now be included in the Residential 1 Zone.

Like the R-1 zone there are several new uses proposed for the R-2 and -3 zones, said Marshall, including bed and breakfasts, and group homes for the disabled. The new zoning ordinances would decrease the minimum lot size in both zones from a 1/3-acre lot to a 1/4-acre lot. Marshall also identified two properties in the R-2 zone that would be candidates for contract rezoning.

One of the more complicated changes to the two zones is the introduction of "traditional neighborhood setbacks." Rather than keeping the current uniform setbacks requiring a structure to be 25-feet from the road the new system will define minimum setbacks based on the current setbacks on each particular road, according to previously published reports.

This means homes on one side of the street could have a different minimum setback requirement from those on the opposite side. Marshall said this change was made to reflect the current setbacks within the city, which vary widely from street to street.

There were three members of the public who chose to speak at the public hearing. Peter Sanderson, of Belfast, said the only "hang up" he had about the Residential 2 Zone was that there were portions without city sewer, so they may not be appropriate for higher density housing.

A resident of Seaview Terrace thanked the city for listening to their concerns and changing the proposed zoning map, while a third resident sought clarification on the new allowance for above garage apartments, which Marshall said would only apply to single family residences.

The final public hearing on the Downtown Commercial and Waterfront Mixed Use zoning districts was held July 8. Following the public hearing process, the Planning Board will forward its recommendations to the City Council, which will then hold its own set of public hearings.

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