Falmouth council: Water view protections need more work

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday withdrew a proposal that would have clarified zoning regulations that protect homeowners’ ocean views in the Foreside and Flats neighborhoods.

Councilors last month began discussing a proposed Waterview Overlay District in the neighborhoods east of Route 88, but decided this week to send the ordinance back to a subcommittee for further work.

All owners of single-family homes on non-conforming lots who are seeking an expansion must now receive conditional use approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals. The creation of an overlay district would narrow the requirement to lots that have water views. 

The town currently demands that conditional use on non-conforming lots “will not have a significant adverse impact on water views from adjacent and nearby properties and right of ways.”

If approved without further changes, the Waterview Overlay District would require all single-family homes in the district to obtain a conditional use permit and prove the project will not adversely impact neighbors’ water views.

Councilors Tony Payne and William Armitage, also members of the Community Development Committee, which is working on the proposal, said they may need to tweak it to ensure it doesn’t go too far in curtailing the rights of property owners.

“We want to help, but the struggle becomes whose rights override whose rights,” Armitage said.

Community Development Director Amanda Stearns said the Town Council in 2006 approved an amendment that required conditional use approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals for the expansion of all single-family homes on non-conforming lots.

The intent was to provide protection for property owners whose water views would be adversely impacted, but the amendment has unintended consequences. Stearns said projects in areas of town that do not necessarily have water views must still go to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The Board of Zoning Appeals last fall asked the council to review waterfront zoning to make it more clear.

The council’s decision to send the issue back to the Community Development Committee followed a public hearing that drew few comments from residents.

Don Staples, of Tempest Street, said he supports the overlay district proposal and the idea of encouraging residents to mitigate issues through an administrative process before going to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“To me it seems at this point we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.

Road work

In other council business, Jay Reynolds, director of Parks and Public Works, provided an update on projects currently planned for the 2012 construction season.

Projects include reconstruction of Falmouth Road between Blueberry and Middle roads. The project design is the same as the 2011 reconstruction that added paved shoulders and a sidewalk to the southeastern side of Falmouth Road.

Reynolds said the town is in the process of securing half of the project cost, or more than $404,000, from the state as part of the new Municipal Partnership Initiative program.

The reconstruction of Ledgewood Drive between Country Lane and Middle Road will include a sidewalk extension on the northern side. Drainage system replacement and road repaving are expected on Marston and Oriole streets, where there is a failing storm drain system.

Reynolds said the town’s annual paving list is in its initial stages, but potential candidates include Merrill Road, Indian Way, Balsam Lane and Depot Road from Lunt Road to the dead end.

Planned work also includes drainage system improvements on two playing fields at Community Park. Reynolds said the improvements will minimize the time fields are closed due to weather.

Maine Department of Transportation maintenance paving will be done on Longwoods, Gray and Babbidge roads. Maine Turnpike Authority projects scheduled for this year include Mountain Road bridge repairs from June to August and Leighton Road bridge repairs from August to October.

Gillian Graham can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or ggraham@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @grahamgillian.