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Cape Elizabeth council to weigh business zoning, traffic signal

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Cape Elizabeth council to weigh business zoning, traffic signal

CAPE ELIZABETH — The future of 553 Shore Road and other proposed amendments to the Business-A zone will go before the Town Council on Monday, May 11.

The Ordinance Committee in February unanimously approved the rezoning of 553 Shore Road into the business district, along with zoning changes that are part of a district overhaul initiated by the Planning Board.

At that time, the committee did not take up a request to rezone 551 Shore Road from the BA zone into the residential district, because owner Jane Waning had asked that her request go through the formal Planning Board process rather than piggy-back the BA zone discussion.

The Town Council could bypass that formal process and vote Monday on rezoning the property along with other map changes that are part of the current proposal. It is not yet clear whether the council will take up the matter of 551 Shore Road. If Waning's proposal does go through the Planning Board first, town officials have estimated it could take up to two years to be heard because of a backlog of work.

The zoning changes were originally expected to go before the council in April, but were put off until this month because of school and municipal budget hearings and votes.

The proposed zoning changes themselves are not expected to elicit much comment, except that some of them were made by the ordinance committee specifically because of the proposed inclusion of 553 Shore Road in the district.

Because of these changes – which stipulate several levels of approved uses depending on lot size and proximity to residential property – Town Planner Maureen O'Meara has said the BA zone could become "the most complicated ordinance" in Cape Elizabeth.

The various levels approved by the Ordinance Committee were made in an effort to appease neighbor's fears that intensive business use could soon be a part of the tightly knit neighborhood.

Special rules have been placed on some uses on lots within 100 feet of a residential property and on lots smaller than 10,000 square feet. Only three properties in the BA zone are smaller than 10,000 square feet: Kettle Cove Dairy on Route 77, the town fire station on Shore Road and the building at 553 Shore Road. No building in the Shore Road zone could be farther than 100 feet from a residential property.

Some committee members said in February that the lot size restriction rules evoke spot-zoning – a method of rezoning one property at a time, which is not legal in town – but agreed that it was the most convenient way to restrict something like a loud, late-night restaurant from being opened at 553 Shore Road.

Under the zoning changes approved by the committee, restaurants on lots smaller than 10,000 square feet must close by 5 p.m. and those within 100 feet of a residential property must close by 9 p.m., with all others closing by 10 p.m. Establishments within 100 feet of a residential property that have a liquor license may not serve alcohol outside and can have no gatherings outside after 6 p.m.

These changes allow business as usual to continue at The Good Table restaurant on Route 77, and prevent Rudy's from serving alcohol outside.

Using restrictions based on liquor licenses allows Kettle Cove Dairy to continue doing business after 6 p.m., unless alcoholic beverages are added to the menu.

On lots under 10,000 square feet, personal services, veterinary offices, medical clinics, repair garages, institutional uses and boat-repair facilities must be closed by 7 p.m.

In all parts of the BA zone, which exists on Shore Road from the South Portland border until near the intersection with Charles Road and on Route 77 from Rudy's to Kettle Cove Dairy, parking is not allowed in the front-yard setback, restaurants are limited to no more than 80 seats, and any new use or activity that requires Planning Board review and has frontage on Shore Road is required to construct or improve a sidewalk along Shore Road.

Lee Wilson, owner of 553 Shore Road, said in February that despite restrictions placed on her property, which is both smaller than 10,000 square feet and within 100 feet of residential property, her plans for the building remain unchanged. Wilson has said before that she hopes to open a small retail shop on the first floor, with office space on the second floor and a studio apartment on the third. 

The Town Council will discuss the proposed changes Monday; their meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall. The meeting is open to the public and will be televised.

Town center signal

Also on Monday's agenda is what could be the final word on a plan to install a traffic signal at the Town Center intersection. The council last November deferred the decision on the federal/state/local project to add traffic lights and pedestrian improvements at the intersection of Route 77 and Shore and Scott Dyer roads.

The project was not well-received by residents or the council last year. Citizens were concerned with the more than $1 million price tag, and the council voted to postpone the decision to this month and move forward with some pedestrian improvements, many of which have been completed.

The Maine Department of Transportation has told the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System that the balance of $438,000 designated for the project should be redistributed to other local projects. MDOT has also suggested that PACTS and/or the town could be asked to reimburse MDOT for $134,000 already expended if the project doesn't move forward by 2016.

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

More stories like this: Town Council, cape elizabeth, BA zoning