Cape Elizabeth adopts rules to encourage apartment buildings

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A land-use ordinance amendment designed to promote multi-unit housing and preserve open space was approved Wednesday by the Town Council.

Councilors also sent a proposed village green zoning amendment to the ordinance committee, and scheduled a Nov. 4 public hearing on a proposed special events ordinance.

The land-use ordinance amendment was previously sent to the ordinance committee − which includes Councilors Jessica Sullivan, Caitlin Jordan and Jamie Wagner − in May after the Town Council received it from the Planning Board. After making a few changes, the committee voted 3-0 to recommend the amendment to councilors.

“The Planning Board spent months and months on this and made the ordinance committee’s job much easier,” Sullivan said.

The amendment for multi-unit housing is one of several that was proposed to the town’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan. It reduces the minimum lot size required for a multi-family building, and allows one- and two-bedroom units to count as a fraction of a unit.

The ordinance committee approved minimum lot sizes of 10 acres in the Residence A district and five acres in the Residence C district. A zoning map can be found on the town’s website

A major change the ordinance committee made was to set the maximum height of the multi-unit homes at 35 feet, or three stories. The Planning Board originally recommended three- and five-story buildings. 

Although many residents have said they oppose the amendment and multi-unit housing, councilors said reducing the height of the buildings should alleviate some concerns.

“It’s an example of this council being responsive,” Councilor Patty Grennon said.

Councilors unanimously approved the amendment 6-0; Wagner was absent.

Village green

The proposed village green zoning amendment would alter setback requirements so a village green could be established on Ocean House Road, near Town Hall.

The amendment would create side and rear setback requirements of 15 feet, and 25 feet for front setbacks. The amendment wouldn’t have a maximum front yard setback of 35 feet, which is a requirement of “all other uses” in the Town Center District.

The amendment was sent to the Town Council by the Planning Board last month.

Peter Curry, the board chairman, on Wednesday said members “thought it’d be important to have some control over a village green in Cape Elizabeth. This is not some kind of planning tool to try and get a village green.”

After being discussed by the ordinance committee, the amendment will come back before the council for a public hearing and a final vote.

Special events

The special events ordinance would regulate the rental of residential property for private events and parties.

The use of residential property as a business for fee-paying functions is currently not allowed. The issue came up after the town became aware that Sprague Corp. has been renting Wentworth Lodge on Winters Lane at Ram Island Farm for several weddings a year.

The Planning Board sent the ordinance to councilors in June, who then sent it to the ordinance committee. Also being sent through the process is a zoning map amendment that allows Sprague Corp. to continue to rent property for events.

Under the ordinance, if a person or business wants to hold events on their property, they have to apply for a zoning map amendment to be included in the special events facility overlay district.

The special events facility ordinance would allow property owners in the A, B, and C residential zoning districts to have “small-scale, hospitality venues” on their property, if the property is a minimum of 15 acres. 

Other restrictions created by the Planning Board and ordinance committee include a maximum of 12 events a year at a property; no amplified music after 10 p.m.; no more than 275 people in attendance, including staff, and site plans must be renewed every three years.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

From left, Councilors Jim Walsh, Jessica Sullivan, and Caitlin Jordan, Town Clerk Debra Lane, Town Council Chairwoman Kathy Ray, Town Manager Mike McGovern, and Councilors Molly MacAuslan and Patty Grennon.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.