Cumberland planners to weigh Route 1 retail ban

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday sent the Planning Board the question of whether to restrict primarily retail businesses from the Office Commercial South Zone on Route 1.

The board is expected to make a recommendation next month.

Associated retail uses could remain in the zone, which runs along Route 1, south from the intersection with Tuttle Road to the Falmouth line.

Ordinance changes made last summer inadvertently added retail as a permitted use in the zone. The council earlier this month enacted a 90-day moratorium on retail businesses in the Office Commercial South Zone so it could establish rules for allowable retail uses.

If the council opts to eliminate retail uses from the zone, it could vote to end that moratorium.

Town Manager Bill Shane noted Monday that potential commercial space is limited on Cumberland’s stretch of Route 1. He said Seafax has a taxable value of $3.13 million, while a fast food restaurant in a neighboring town has a $436,000 value.

“When you look at something that’s eight times more valuable … you don’t want to kind of pepper your remaining commercial areas” with businesses that are important, but have low return from the standpoint of taxes, jobs and growing other businesses, he said.

Shane noted that Yarmouth Marketplace has a taxable value of $2.7 million and houses multiple businesses.

“When you look at that, and you compare it to a stand-alone fast-food chain … it doesn’t take too long to look at the math and say ‘hm, what do I want to attract here?,'” he said. “… I’m trying to build a sustainable economy in the community, and you can’t do it on the backs of … fast-food chains.”

Shane said retail uses could be reconsidered in the future.

“If we are successful in filling the lots with office commercial type of businesses, there will be added pressure to add retail-like services … to that zone for those businesses,” he said, referring to restaurants, an office supply store or a coffee shop.

Associated retail is a kind of use that is subordinate to a business’s primary use, sort of like a doctor’s office having a pharmacy, Shane said. That retail component would be small and would serve only to help with the primary business.

The zone also allows uses such as research and residential-care facilities, light manufacturing, and business and professional offices.

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

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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.