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Bath Planning Board continues Plant Home zoning talks to Dec. 15

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Bath Planning Board continues Plant Home zoning talks to Dec. 15

BATH — The Planning Board on Tuesday opted to continue its discussions on creation of a Plant Home Zone to a Tuesday, Dec. 15, meeting.

By that time, City Planner Jim Upham said he expects to have provided the board with information about design standards for the zone.

Those regulations may be similar to historic district approval standards, "so that we don't end up with a building that is just totally inappropriate (in that zone)," Upham said.

The Plant Home Zone, based around the senior housing facility that opened at the southern end of Washington Street more than 90 years ago, was recommended in Bath's most recent Comprehensive Plan update, which the City Council adopted in September.

While the facility is not currently a permitted use in the medium density waterfront residential zone where it stands, it is grandfathered since its construction predates zoning. The Plant Home was able to expand in recent years, thanks to a contract zone and is looking to expand again. The Comprehensive Plan update calls for a zone to be created that permits the facility's use.

The zone would also allow residential uses similar to what currently exist in that neighborhood: single- and multi-family homes at the same density now allowed across the street from the Plant Home and beside it, Upham said.

The zone proposal separates the definition of a dwelling unit from that of an assisted residential unit. Upham noted that a standard dwelling unit typically generates about nine vehicle trips a day, while a unit where a resident of an assisted living facility lives does not have the same impact on a neighborhood.

"Therefore ... on a given piece of land, you could probably have more assisted living people and not have the same impact as people living in a single-family home," Upham said.

If the Plant Home ceases to exist and the building becomes an apartment house, he said, it could have fewer dwelling units. If it remained an assisted residential facility, it would be able to house a higher number of residential care units than dwelling units.

The lot area per dwelling unit would be 9,000 square feet, and the lot area per assisted residential unit would be 4,500 square feet, or twice the density.

If the Planning Board votes next month to recommend the zone, the City Council will hear the matter first in January and could approve it in February.

The zone will then have one final hurdle: state law says any changes to Bath's ordinances in the Shoreland Zone must also be approved by the commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Upham said.

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