BRUNSWICK — The Planning Board voted unanimously Tuesday to send the first new draft of the town’s zoning ordinance in nearly 20 years to the Town Council.
The board presented the draft at a public hearing on Nov. 1, but tabled the decision to approve the document that night to allow more time for the public to comment on the proposed changes.
Tuesday’s vote – which followed a second, modestly attended public hearing – does not mean the draft isn’t subject to further change. Prior to enacting the ordinance, the council must hold its own public hearings, and is able to send the draft back for revisions.
“Just another step (along) the way,” said Vice Chairwoman Margaret Wilson, who ran the meeting because Chairman Charles Frizzle lost his voice from a cold.
Board members Richard Vissar and Jeremy Evans were also absent from Tuesday’s vote.
Vissar, Frizzle and Wilson sit on the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite Committee, which conducted more than 100 meetings over the course of three years to update the town’s existing ordinance.
The changes, guided by the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, are intended to reflect the present state in town, and to make the dense document more user-friendly. Committee members said the existing ordinance had redundancies and inconsistencies as it tried to keep up with nearly two decades of development and town changes.
The new draft also consolidates zones in town, reducing what Breinich described at the first hearing as an unusually high number of zones for a town of Brunswick’s size.
Few changes to the document occurred between the first and second hearing, other than an appendix to include the town’s Complete Streets policy, a definition of the term “density,” and fixing typos.
Only two members of the public – one of whom serves on the Village Review Board – spoke Tuesday, likely because many had the opportunity to weigh in on the document Nov. 1.
Bruce Meyer of Gurnet Road had concerns about how restrictions to the farm and forest zone where he lives might reduce the value of his property. While his concerns did not halt the board from sending the draft to the council, Wilson and Frizzle assured Meyer of the future opportunities he and others will have to weigh in when the draft is under council review.
Prompted by his comments, the board also noted that the Planning Department will likely hold another set of neighborhood forums in zoning districts most affected by changes in the document to educate the public. The forums would likely take place for the downtown areas, farm and forest zones, and for neighbors of Bowdoin College.
Edited 1/31 to clarify Charles Frizzle was in attendance, though he was sick; and, to correct the name of the town’s Complete Streets policy.