At the upcoming fall Town meeting, set for Saturday, November 13 at 1 p.m. at the ME Regional Middle High School, we see action on eight articles, as I recently summarized. The complete warrant was printed in last week’s edition of the Cricket and can be found on-line at the Town’s website.
This week, a closer look at the four zoning articles is provided.
The Planning Board has been working on a complete overhaul of the Town’s zoning by-laws for the last couple of years. Voters approved funds to hire an expert in zoning regulations to assist in this process. Work continues on this large undertaking, but two elements are now ready for approval by the voters. As with most zoning amendments, a two-thirds majority vote is required to approve the changes.
First up in Article 4 is a simple re-numbering of the current by-laws. In this proposed amendment advocated by the Planning Board, no changes to the by-law language are proposed. Only the numbering and location of various sections change. The article specifies the existing number and the proposed new number. The renumbering is aimed at making the by-law easier to follow and sets the stage for any future amendments. Thus, this effort is really a housekeeping matter and has no substantive impact on the Town’s zoning regulations. None-the-less, voter approval is needed.
In Article 5, the Planning Board proposes to delete seven sections of the existing zoning by-law. These seven sections have been determined to be obsolete and no longer are needed. They have been made obsolete by the passage of time, (reflecting antennas are no longer in use), already replaced by another section or made moot by new state laws or court cases. The seven sections to be deleted are listed in the article.
Two zoning changes are being advanced via citizen petitions. Article 7 seeks voter approval for an amendment to the zoning regulations that requires larger developments, defined as more than 50 dwelling units and having an access drive over 500 feet, to have two access/egress roads/driveways. The roads must be paved and maintained year-round to provide access and egress from the development.
During the Planning Board’s required hearing on the proposal, support for public safety measures was expressed but concerns about some un-intended consequences of the proposal were also voiced. For example, would this mean the 51st house proposed on an existing dead-end road could not be constructed until a secondary access was built? What if a project is being clustered away from ecologically sensitive lands and the only option for a second access road would be through these lands? The Planning Board voted to not recommend passage of this article, suggesting instead further discussion and refinement. The Selectmen agree with this recommendation.
The second citizen’s petition calls for a maximum issuance of 50 residential building permits a year. The advocates of the article will propose this limitation for a period of two years noting that during this time the Town will update its water resources protection plan and further advance efforts at securing the future capacity of both the Town’s drinking water system and sewer system. Again, at the Planning Board hearing, concerns about unintended consequences arose. Concerns included thwarting the efforts to revitalize and expand the housing provided through the Manchester Housing Authority as well as potential senior housing projects in the Limited Commercial District, both which could exceed the 50- unit limitation. The Planning Board also voted to not recommend passage of this article but invited the proponents to attend future meetings where amendments to the zoning regulations will be discussed further. The Selectmen concur here as well.