Falmouth committee to review water view standards

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FALMOUTH — The Community Development Committee is set to discuss this week whether any changes are required in the town’s 12-year-old water views ordinance.

The ordinance prompted debate last summer after the town was sued over a proposed project on Andrews Avenue.

Community Development Director Ethan Croce called Thursday’s meeting, scheduled for 8 a.m. at Town Hall, a kick-off and said “there could be a wide range of outcomes to this process (and) I suspect that this item will take multiple meetings to address.”

Last August, Andrew Beahm, his wife Deborah Megna, and neighbors Patrice and Donald Walsh sued the town in Superior Court, claiming the Board of Zoning Appeals erred when it determined the Andrews Avenue project would not significantly obstruct their views of Casco Bay.

The proposal is to build a two-story, single-family home on a vacant lot at 32 Andrews Ave. In the court filing, the Walshes said their view could be 100 percent obstructed, while Beahm, who is executive director of Maine Audubon, and his wife said they could lose up to 25 percent of their view, which now includes the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland and Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth.

The lawsuit is still pending.

The water views regulation, which was first adopted in 2006, requires projects undergoing conditional use review by the zoning board “to demonstrate that the project will not have a significant adverse impact on water views from adjacent and nearby properties and public rights of way,” Croce said this week.

He said the Town Council put a review of the water views ordinance on the Community Development Committee’s agenda after adding the item to its overall work plan for the year.

The specific charge to the committee is to “review view ordinance and consider ordinance amendments if deemed necessary.”

“This first meeting will primarily be a meeting for people to become educated as to how the ordinance’s view protection provisions work and to begin identifying whether there are issues with the ordinance that warrant addressing in some fashion,” Croce said.

After several meetings this past spring and summer that involved projects neighbors said would affect their water views, members of the zoning board requested that the Town Council consider making changes to the ordinance that would make the standard of review less subjective.

The problem, board member Stan Given said at the time, is that opinions too often differ on what constitutes a “significant” impact.

“I feel like no matter how we vote, somebody is losing out,” he said. “Somebody can’t do what they want on their own property or someone loses a view they value.”

Board alternate Jay Trickett agreed and said that evaluating the impact on water views “has been the most contentious issue by far” to recently come before the board.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

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