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Cumberland council OKs growth ordinance review, new easement

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Cumberland council OKs growth ordinance review, new easement

CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved appointment of an ad hoc committee to review and possibly revise the town's growth management and impact fee ordinances.

Town Manager Bill Shane said the growth ordinance limits the number of building permits issued by the town each year to 46. But the town has not reached that cap since 2000. It hit 34 in fiscal 2003, 12 in fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010, and nine in fiscal 2011.

"So we're looking at (whether) the growth ordinance make sense. Should we get rid of it?," he said. "Is it something that it's time has passed? Especially with this declining population in the schools ... we should be looking at maybe encouraging some residential growth."

The impact fees are what the town charges new residential properties, and they can typically run from $3,000 to $10,000 depending on the size of the home being built, Shane said. The first 500 square feet of a building are exempt from the fees, which could be changed, he noted.

"If you had a choice between Town A and Town B, and Cumberland was that much more expensive because of the impact fee, you may go with a different direction," Shane said.

He said the town collected $62,000 about 10 years ago when it started charging impact fees. Annual revenue peaked around 2003 with $127,000 and has since dropped to $33,000. Use of the fee revenue is dedicated to open space and recreation costs.

The committee, composed of Planning Board members Chris Neagle and Peter Bingham and Town Councilors Tom Gruber, Shirley Storey-King and Ron Copp, is due to report back to the council by Dec. 31.

Village Green open space

The council also unanimously approved two motions concerning the Village Green Revitalization Master Plan project, to be located off Drowne Road and Wyman Way.

The first phase of the plan, currently before the Planning Board, will involve the development of the 40.7-acre Doane property as a 59-lot residential subdivision with a mix of single-family and duplex homes.

The first motion authorized Shane to accept a 20-foot public pedestrian easement from Bateman Partners, the project developer. That town easement will be in the southern section of the property and connect with the Town Forest. It will connect to a sidewalk along the upcoming public road extension of Drowne Road.

The second motion conveyed to Bateman the council's desire that the open space – except for the public easement – remain with the developer, as recommended by Shane and the Lands and Conservation Commission.

Shane said the town requires a subdivision to have a certain amount of open space. "Typically, it's a matter of choice between the town and developer whether it becomes town open space or it remains as part of the subdivision," he said.

Shane noted that since the town's last revaluation in 2008, a subdivision's open space parcel has not been assessed a taxable value. The town assessor feels the open space adds to an individual lot's value, "and that the value of the open space is captured in the price of the individual home sales. I concur with his reasoning," Shane added in a memo to the council.

The approximately 17 acres of open space are not conducive to usable public open space, Shane said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.