Brunswick looks to make zoning exception for new police station, town-owned buildings

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council is considering making an exception to its zoning rules to allow town-owned buildings – and not privately-owned buildings – to have larger footprints and parking lots than what is currently permitted.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the council also adopted an emergency amendment to allow shellfish harvesting on Sundays, made a number of parking enforcement changes and set public hearings on two proposed tax increment financing districts for Brunswick Landing.

Planning staff are recommending that municipal buildings be allowed to exceed current maximum footprint and parking lot size by 40 percent. The zoning change was written with the future police station site, on the corner of Pleasant and Stanwood streets, in mind, as draft plans for the police station indicate that it will exceed the allowed footprint and impervious surface coverage.

Because many other town buildings current exceed the standards, the change would also bring them back into compliance.

Since the zoning change was drafted, Town Manager Gary Brown said councilors have been hearing from constituents concerned about the implications of such a wide-sweeping change. In response, councilors said on Monday they wanted to narrow the change to just the police station site.

In the past, the Planning Board has frowned upon making such specific changes, especially when they benefit the town. One planning board member called a similar effort, the recent re-zoning of Longfellow School, “spot zoning.”

Brown agreed that the Planning Board may not have approved of the change, but said the council was authorized to amend the ordinance on its own.

He also said the councilors are in a tough spot and must address concerns that the ordinance change is both too broad and too narrow.

He also pointed out that any landowner may request the zoning to be changed on their property.

“We’re not exercising any privileges not available to others,” he said.

On Monday, three Brunswick residents encouraged the council to narrow the ordinance changes to just the police station site.

Connie Lundquist called the town out on its decision to build the new police station  where the zoning would need to be changed.

“I don’t think the town gets to do what it wants to do just because it wants to do it,” she said.

Councilors directed staff to determine exactly how large the police station and parking lot will be before bringing the revised item back at a meeting next month.

Shellfish Sundays

In response to a request from the Marine Resource Committee, the council voted to allow shellfish harvesting on Sundays between Oct. 16 and April 30.

Because of the limitations of tides and daylight, the change will allow harvesters only about four additional hours a month to dig. But Marine Resource Officer Dan Deveraux said the extra time was especially helpful in the winter months, when daylight hours – and incomes – can be more limited than the rest of the year.

Devereaux said thanks to on-going restoration efforts, most of the areas that had been closed due to pollution are now re-opened. He said the additional harvesting day will not negatively affect the town’s shellfish stock.

TIF hearings set

Public hearings on two proposed TIF districts for Brunswick Landing will be held on Feb. 6.

While the details of the TIF agreement have yet to be worked out, Brown encouraged the council to decide on the geographic area of the TIF before April 1, when the value of all the buildings formerly owned by the Navy will be added to the town’s tax rolls.

If the town doesn’t create a TIF district before that date, it means the town’s valuation will increase, resulting in less state revenue sharing and educational funding, and more paid to Cumberland County.

Parking changes

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council also made a number of changes to the town’s parking ordinance, including revising the traffic pattern around Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School to decrease congestion.

The school’s access road will be made one-way from 2:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the direction of travel from Spring Street toward Stanwood Street. The west side of Armory Street, the west side of Spring Street from Weymouth to McKeen streets, and the east side of Spring Street from Page to McKeen streets will be no parking or standing.

Finally, the loop opposite the current pickup-drop off spaces will become a no parking area.

Other changes affected Noble, Maine and Elm streets.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

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