BELFAST — The Planning Board approved a number of proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinances Dec. 14, which will now go before the City Council for final approval.

The vote for the majority of the proposed changes was 5-1 with board member Lewis Baker voting against the measures. Baker said he was not necessarily against all the changes but he did have some concerns, specifically with respect to changes made to non-conforming uses.

The vote followed a public hearing where no one from the public commented. However, a letter asking questions about changes to non-conforming uses was read into the record as the only public comment presented during the meeting.

City Project Planner Wayne Marshall outlined the scope of the changes prior to the public hearing Dec. 14. Marshall said the public hearing would be for a number of amendments that the board has been discussing since April.

The major changes as outlined by Marshall include, in the eastern districts of Belfast, bringing in the concept of flex housing for residential areas. Marshall said flex housing would allow property owners more freedom in what types of structures would be allowed based upon the size of the lot. For instance, it would allow some property owners the option of placing single-family dwellings or duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes.

Marshall said part of the reason for expanding the possible types of dwelling units that could be placed was the hope that it might help create more housing units in Belfast, a need that has been identified by the city as being of utmost importance.

In the city’s southerly districts, certain residential districts would also be open to the possibility of flex housing.

During a discussion about housing, Baker said he hasn’t seen a mobile home park approved by the city since the 1970s. He said he felt approving more mobile home parks would be a better way to address issues relating to affordable housing.

Another important change Marshall referenced was that on Route 1 South, the zone would be expanded on the inland side, which would allow for more depth in development along Route 1.

One of the more contentious portions of the proposed changes dealt with non-conforming uses. Current rules allow for expansion into non-conforming areas of up to 30% of the current square footage of the structure on the property. The change would allow expansion of non-conforming uses only as a percentage of area that is already in the non-conforming area, not 30% of the square footage of the existing structure, which could restrict possible expansions into non-conforming areas of a lot.

Baker said he didn’t see the need to change the city’s current rules regarding non-conforming structures and felt that the rule changes were a significant change from the current rules.

Marshall also noted that the proposed changes would change the city’s Shoreland Zoning rules. He said rules related to shoreland property are state-mandated and that the state has model guidelines, which were originally merely suggestions to be followed. He noted that the state is now making those guidelines more mandatory and the proposed changes would bring the city more in line with state guidelines.

The vote for the majority of proposed changes was 5-1 with Baker voting against all the measures. Votes on a couple of measures were 4-1 with one of the members abstaining.

The proposed changes will now be voted on by the Belfast City Council. No date has been set for that vote.