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Bath Comp Plan update suggests new zones, creation of Conservation Commission

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Bath Comp Plan update suggests new zones, creation of Conservation Commission

BATH — This year's update to the city's 1997 Comprehensive Plan, approved by the Bath City Council early this month, calls for new zones and the establishment of a Conservation Commission.

City Planner Jim Upham said this month that the city aims to have completed all of the zoning implementation aspects of the update within two years. While in some municipalities an implementation committee is formed to carry out this work, in Bath the project will be undertaken by the Planning Board, Upham said.

"I'll take a working copy of the plan and start marking it up and figuring out what we do first," he explained.

One of the first objectives is to establish "space and bulk" standards – heights, setbacks, densities – and permitted use language for the new Plant Home zone called for in the update.

The longtime senior housing facility is looking into expansion, making this piece of the update time sensitive, the planner said.

That zone "legitimizes them as they are, it allows them to expand a little bit, but it won't overwhelm the neighborhood," Upham said. "... We don't (want to) overwhelm the traffic on Washington Street. And we also have to remember that this is in the Shoreland Zone, and anything that we do with zoning, and space and bulk, and all those regulations ... has to be approved by the commissioner of (the Department of Environmental Protection). So whatever we do there has to pass DEP muster."

The city will also get to work on creating a new neighborhood commercial zone in the area of the five-corners intersection of Congress and Oak Grove avenues, North and Lincoln streets and Old Brunswick Road. The specific boundaries of that zone, along with space and bulk standards and uses, must be established.

The same process will take place concerning the new zone created specifically to house the Maine Maritime Museum. The museum currently stands in the Marine Business district.

There is much in the update that is not zoning-related and may be accomplished outside the Planning Board, Upham said, by people like himself, City Manager Bill Giroux, Public Works Director Peter Owen or the Forestry Committee. He mentioned a suggestion in Chapter Four of the update that the Forestry Committee be organized into an expanded Conservation Commission.

"I think, and the committee that put the plan together feels, that there needs to be a group of volunteers in town that are advocates for the natural environment, for open space, for wetlands and so forth," Upham said. "In any community, it's difficult to get volunteers. ... So sometimes it might be possible to add a task, or add another role for an existing committee. The Forestry Committee may not want that, and if not, then what I would like to see happen is to have a brand new committee, a Conservation Commission, that is formed and becomes an advocate for the natural environment."

Upham also said he would like to see a Comprehensive Plan update conducted at the beginning of each year.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.