Falmouth hires firm to create 1-stop code database

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FALMOUTH — The town has hired a Texas-based consulting firm to lead the effort of reorganizing its land use codes and developing a new Unified Development Code.

The firm, Kendig Keast Collaborative, will be paid $90,000 for the year-long effort of simplifying and clarifying land use codes. The project will last until late 2015, and KKC has already delivered an initial draft outline to the town.

According to that outline, the general purpose of projects includes addressing the structure, organization and readability of the code; unifying all development-related ordinances into the Unified Development Code; updating terminology and resolving issues of interpretation, and revising non-policy related content, including standards, criteria and procedures.

Community Development Director Amanda Stearns said the firm, along with the Ad-Hoc Zoning Committee, will not be writing any language, only reorganizing the language in “various ordinances that have to do with land development.” She said the goal is to make it easier for people to use the ordinances.

The new Unified Development Code will include the Zoning and Site Plan Review Ordinance, Subdivision Ordinance, Personal Wireless Transmission Facilities Ordinance, Floodplain Management Ordinance and portions of the Code of Ordinances that are related to land use.

According to the outline, there are several values that go along with a Unified Development Code, including consolidating all development-related ordinances into a single document, ensuring consistency with different components, and allowing easier navigation and comprehension for both technical and casual users.

Stearns said the existing ordinances “are confusing.” For example, she said the zoning ordinance was originally adopted in 1983, but has been amended 70 times.

“Inevitably things won’t always mesh perfectly, and this project will help eliminate those issues,” Stearns said.

She also said there are often different ordinances with similar regulations, and that people can be confused when they have to research several ordinances to see how they might impact a particular project. She said in a unified code all that information would be in one place.

“It will be sort of one-stop shopping, so you don’t have to look in four different places for a project,” Stearns said.

She said the hope is also that town staff will be “more efficient in doing reviews and assisting customers,” and they will have the “opportunity to have more clarity with ordinances.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.