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Cape Elizabeth council needs more time on business zone, traffic signal

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Cape Elizabeth council needs more time on business zone, traffic signal

CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council Monday postponed a decision on a Business-A zoning overhaul and further deferred discussion on installing a traffic signal at the town center intersection.

A public hearing on the BA overhaul, which includes the rezoning of 553 Shore Road into the business zone, nearly filled the Town Council chambers with spectators.

During the seven Ordinance Committee meetings held over the winter regarding the zoning changes, the most vocal residents were those who live on Charles Road and who are not in favor of including 553 Shore Road in the area's existing business zone.

Monday, a majority of residents who spoke came in support of 553 Shore Road's rezoning. Many, including Shore Road business owner Elizabeth Monahan, said it was time Cape Elizabeth encouraged local businesses.

"Too many times we've shut down opportunities," Monahan said.

Others said that restricting the large, recently refurbished home to residential use would send it quickly back into disrepair, since they felt owners would be unable to afford maintenance even if they could afford to keep it. Some added that the house would be a better neighbor as a business, since as a rental property there are no restrictions on "hours of business."

Some, like Anne Bosworth of Old Fort Road, said that adding 553 Shore Road to the business zone could liven up what others called a "business oasis."

"I'm excited that the business zone could be a thriving zone," as it once was when the Cookie Jar was open, Bosworth said. "It's a nice entryway coming into Cape Elizabeth."

Charles Road residents, including abutters David and Joyce Wilson-Sanford, remained opposed Monday, citing a need to preserve the tightly knit residential neighborhood.

Charles Road resident Harry Hardy added that he and his neighbors are frustrated that the town isn't taking his neighborhood seriously.

"We feel like we're not being listened to, that we're being bullied a bit," Hardy said. "I don't think anybody in favor of (rezoning 553 Shore Road) lives within sight of it."

But 553 Shore Road was not the only change proposed in the overhaul, which seeks to define and redefine some business hours, uses, setbacks and design standards in the BA zone, which exists at the northern end of Shore Road and on Route 77 from Rudy's to Kettle Cove Dairy.

Comments on other parts of the overhaul included thoughts on wetland setbacks, density changes and restaurant restrictions, with a handful of residents speaking specifically about Rudy's.

Julie Barnes, who operates Rudy's, said that she supports the spirit of the ordinance changes and their promotion of good citizenship within the zone closely bordered by homes. But she asked councilors to reconsider restaurant hours and the limited number of seats allowed at a counter.

She said she hopes that Rudy's could be allowed to stay open until 10 p.m., primarily so that sports fans wouldn't be kicked out halfway through a game. She also asked for  a distinction drawn between a counter and a bar – she said Rudy's often serves families food at its counter, "which doesn't impact the seven or eight seats at the bar."

Others said that the zoning changes were, purposefully or not, making Rudy's the most restricted business in town.

Rather than vote on the zoning changes, councilors unanimously decided to table a decision until their June 8 meeting. A workshop to further discuss comments and find possible compromises will be held in the interim, but has not been scheduled.

The council also made a quick decision to postpone talk on a proposed signal at the intersection of Route 77 with Shore and Scott Dyer roads. Procedural rules prevented the council from much discussion on the matter after a motion was made to table a decision until November, frustrating some councilors.

Chairman Jim Rowe, who made the motion, suggested that in light of recent accidents in the intersection, the council needs a full year after minor pedestrian improvements were made before deciding on the full project.

The full project had mixed public support at a hearing last November, with some citizens concerned about the safety of the intersection and others opposed to the more than $1 million cost.

The council will take up the issue again in November, and in the meantime will watch for safety gains – or a lack thereof.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.