Cape Elizabeth council gets village green zoning proposal

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Ordinance Committee has passed a village green zoning amendment and forwarded it to the Town Council for approval, despite concerns about the terminology.

The amendment, which was recommended by the Planning Board in September, would alter setback requirements so a village green could be built on Ocean House Road (Route 77).

The committee, which includes Councilors Jessica Sullivan, Caitlin Jordan and Sara Lennon, decided Dec. 17 to send the ordinance to the Town Council just as the Planning Board wrote it.

The amendment was created so developers could have the option of creating a village green. The recommendation is in line with a 1993 Town Center Plan, which promoted a village green built by the town.

The amendment would create side and rear setback requirements of 15 feet, with a 25-foot setback in front. There would not be a maximum front setback of 35 feet, which is a requirement of “all other uses” in the Town Center District.

If the amendment is passed by the Town Council and a developer wants to build a space with a village green, the developer would have to go to the Planning Board for approval. If approved, the plan will be sent to councilors and, as stated in the amendment, the developer will offer the green to the town. If the town wants to own and maintain the space, councilors would accept the land, but if not, the developer is still required to include a public easement through it.

Planning Board Chairman Peter Curry told the Ordinance Committee that the amendment is not encouraging development. He said it just presents developers with the option of building a more attractive property.

“We’d be better off if we had (a village green) than if we didn’t, but we’re not lobbying for it,” Curry said.

Two members of the public spoke at the meeting, both of them saying they didn’t want a village green to be built along Route 77. They both said they’d rather see the space in front of Thomas Memorial Library used as a green.

The Ordinance Committee said there can be multiple village greens in town, and one can still be created near the library. Members said using the term “village green” can be misleading, as some people may think a town can only have one.

“When you say village green, it sounds like you’re precluding other spaces,” Lennon said. “I like the concept, I just don’t like calling it a village green.”

Jordan agreed.

“It’s the term. People hear it and think it’s the one and only,” she said.

Sullivan said while the term is “a bit restrictive and misleading,” it shouldn’t be changed because it’s already in all of the documents. She said changing it could be complicated or confusing.

The Ordinance Committee said instead of changing the name, they will work harder to inform residents that there can be more than one green space. Aside from the name, they said they also plan to educate residents about the amendment and its true meaning and intention.

“It’s an opportunity going forward to get more green space,” Sullivan said. “It doesn’t promote development, it doesn’t squash development.”

The amendment is expected to go before the Town Council in January. The council will vote after a public hearing is held.

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

A sketch of a possible design option for a Cape Elizabeth village green.

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.