Cape Planning Board begins controversial work on 2 properties along Shore Road

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Amid confusion over maps showing 551 Shore Road with varying percentages of Business-A and Residential-C zoning, the Planning Board Tuesday began discussion over a request to rezone the property from its current split zoning into an entirely residential lot.

The board also saw initial plans for mixed-use redevelopment of the century-old home at 553 Shore Road, which last week was rezoned from residential into the BA zone.

The debate over 551 Shore Road was not a quiet one, with passionate arguments heard from members and attorney Peggy McGehee, who represents property owner Jane Waning. McGehee argued that Waning has since December wanted to clarify the zoning map, which she claimed has changed a handful of times since 1968 and even as recently as a few months ago, without any indication as to how or why.

McGehee added that in light of the recent rezoning of 553 Shore Road next door, Waning has even more of a right to have her property taken out of the business zone in order to afford her the increased protections afforded by residences in terms of buffering and setbacks from what will soon be a neighboring business.

Board member Barbara Schenkel supported McGehee and Waning’s hopes for residential protection, and was a loud voice against those on the board who disagreed. “Whoever planned this lot did a stinkin’ job of it,” she said.

Board Chairman Peter Hatem was not as supportive of Waning’s request. The property use will not change at all at 551 Shore Road, he argued, making the point mute as to whether or not it should be rezoned. Board member Liza Quinn agreed, citing the code enforcement officer’s interpretation of the ordinance to say that Waning’s current use – a three-family home – is more consistent with the BA zone than the residential zone.

“It makes no planning sense” to take 551 Shore Road totally out of the BA zone, Hatem said. “Given the fact that the Town Council just put 553 Shore road (into the BA zone), it would be like pulling a tooth out of the zone” to move 551 in the opposite direction. Doing so would isolate 551, since it would be bordered on three sides by business.

McGehee disagreed. “What makes no planning sense to me is to take one lot and rezone it in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” she said. “But it just happened.”

Quinn took the matter one step further and asked the board if, by examining the zoning request, the board might move in a direction opposite that of the proposal and choose to rezone the lot from its current split fully into the business zone.

Though Hatem’s response brought angry remarks from McGehee, he said that, in fact, the board could do exactly that.

The Planning Board will take up the issue again July 21, and is expected to set a public hearing for Aug. 18.

Plans at 553 Shore Road

Lee Wilson and architect John Mitchell brought initial plans for 553 Shore Road to a workshop Tuesday, getting initial feedback before making an official application. That application is expected in early July, and a public hearing is expected to be set for Aug. 18.

Wilson’s plans, in keeping with what she told town officials throughout the rezoning process, include a boutique shop on the first floor, a small office on the second floor and a one-bedroom apartment on the third.

The largest concerns voiced by the board surrounded parking. Six spaces are planned for the property, although 10 are required by the ordinance. Mitchell said options include getting a waiver to reduce parking by 30 percent because the plan involves reuse of an existing structure, or leasing off-site parking in a lot across the street.

Board members expressed concern over the first suggestion, and several said they would not vote to decrease the parking standard because traffic and parking are already a concern on Shore Road.  They did seem open to the idea of contracting spaces across the street for employees on the first two floors and for day use by a third-floor tenant.

Also discussed briefly was the issue of buffering between the building and its neighbors, the owners of which were strongly opposed to the rezoning in the first place. Wilson plans plantings along the sidewalk and said she will work with neighbors to accommodate their needs as much as she can. She said she already has a list of needs from the Sanfords, whose home is located behind her property, and has initiated contact with Waning next door.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or