Brunswick Planning Board OKs rewrite of downtown review process

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BRUNSWICK — The Planning Board is recommending a major overhaul of the town’s zoning ordinance that officials say will streamline the planning process for downtown development.

The board voted 6-0 Tuesday night to rewrite the Village Review Zone section of the town’s zoning ordinance and expand the zone’s boundaries, with a few modifications based on public feedback. 

The amended ordinance will become official if the Town Council approves it after holding a public hearing, which is expected to happen in June.

Planning and Development Director Anna Breinich said last week that the amended ordinance will help streamline planning processes for development that falls within the Village Review Zone, which includes the neighborhoods near the downtown area.

Any changes to structures within the Village Review Zone falls under the jurisdiction of the Village Review Board, which exists to “protect and preserve the architectural context and historical integrity of downtown neighborhoods,” according to the ordinance.

Last December, the Village Review Board’s authority for issuing Certificates of Appropriateness for the demolition and relocation of structures was temporarily removed by the Town Council after officials and developers complained the board’s planning process was often unclear and unpredictable.

Under the amended ordinance, that authority would return to the Village Review Board. But new classification and tier systems will be introduced to help the board determine what level of review is required when a development is proposed.

The classification system will determine whether a structure is “contributing” or “non-contributing.”

Contributing structures are structures listed on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places; located within a National Register Historic District, as determined by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, or determined by a historical architect as having local or regional significance.

Breinich said the “local or regional significance” test should be defined within the next two weeks.

Non-contributing structures are structures that don’t fall under any of those categories.

The tier system will determine when a development proposal, like a renovation or new construction, must be approved by the Village Review Board. In most cases, development proposals for contributing structures must be approved by the board, though the same applies to proposed changes to non-contributing structures that can be seen from a public right of way.

Though the amended ordinance was approved and recommended by the Planning Board, Breinich said there were some modifications made based on public comment that will be made available later this week.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.