Cumberland council OKs revised plan to encourage growth

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved modifying proposed amendments for a growth area in the center of town.

As part of that vote, the council also opposed a zoning change in the proposed growth area that would have reduced the minimum lot size.

The panel tabled the matter Nov. 9, when two members were absent. The full council attended Monday.

The growth area lies mostly in the Medium Density Residential zone, and is one of three in town where growth is being encouraged.

The amendment, before the modification introduced Monday by Town Manager Bill Shane, would have expanded that area to the east and south, to land farther down Route 9 (Main Street), toward the Village Mixed Use and Highway Commercial zones. It includes the Small’s Brook Crossing subdivision, the Val Halla Golf & Recreation Center, the Town Forest and Town Hall.

Town Planner Carla Nixon told the council Nov. 9 that while there is property in the proposed expansion that would likely never be developed, it is “potentially developable. A council 20 years from now may decide that they want to do something in those areas.”

Cumberland’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan calls for connecting the Village Mixed Use and Highway Commercial zones, Nixon explained earlier this month.

Echoing a prior recommendation by the ad hoc Land Use Committee, the Planning Board supported the expansion Sept. 15. The Town Council made the final decision on the matter.

Concern from several residents, who live in properties east and west of Route 9 that would have been included in the expanded growth area, prompted Shane to develop a modification to the proposal.

He eliminated the areas to the east and west side of Route 9 between the southern line of the Village Mixed Use zone and nearly the top of the Highway Commercial zone. He added about 20 acres of property on Winn Road, to the west side of Route 9, across from the HC zone, due to the owners’ request. Shane proposed the HC zone remain in the expansion area.

While the stretch of Route 9 between the VMU and HC zones is included in the growth area, it is only the road itself, as a connector between those zones – none of the properties on that stretch are included, Shane said.

“We have to identify growth areas when when we’re dealing with (Community Development Block) grants, other federal and state grants, as well as contract zones,” Shane told the council. “And it’s difficult to bring forward any plan … if it’s outside your growth area, because you’re supposed to grow somewhere in your growth area.”

Shane on Monday also called for tabling the Planning Board’s recommendation to change other zoning in the proposed growth area from Rural Residential 1, which requiring minimum lot sizes of 4 acres, to Rural Residential 2, which mandates a 2-acre minimum. The change would provide incentive for growth, Town Planner Carla Nixon has said.

The council instead opted to vote to eliminate that proposal.

Brian Cashin, whose Wildflower Way property was in the area proposed for  expansion, and who desired no changes, asked that the council make a decision on the Planning Board’s recommendation and move forward from there.

“There will be growth; if you say Maine is shrinking, it doesn’t apply to Cumberland,” said resident Ted Chadbourne. “The question really is, where is best served the growth area?”

He praised the long-term work of the two panels who preceded the Town Council in exploring the matter, adding, “I honestly believe that the two boards which you’ve appointed … if the work of each of them is thrown out, for a very well-organized protest against keeping things (close to utilities like) sewer, water, and gas … that is just plain wrong.”

On the other hand, Marilyn Matthews of Main Street was among those favoring Shane’s modification.

“Thank you, Bill Shane, for taking the time to do this, because I find this to be a good compromise, and I think that’s what this has to be about at the end of the day,” she said.

Several councilors agreed.

“I personally believe that (the option) is the way to go,” Councilor Tom Gruber said. “It serves all the issues that I heard last meeting … I feel like we’re covering this appropriately.”

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

This map shows the modified Village Center growth area expansion proposal which the Cumberland Town Council approved Monday. The dashed line is the boundary. The Highway Commercial, or HC, zone is also part of the expansion.

This image shows the earlier Village Center growth area expansion, as proposed before Monday’s meeting.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.