Increased setback proposed along Nonesuch River in Scarborough

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SCARBOROUGH — The Planning Board will review a proposal next week that would more than triple the protective buffer along the Nonesuch River.

The proposal from the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee would change the area around the river to a Stream Protection 2 District and increase the setback requirement from 75 feet to 250 feet.

Scarborough’s Comprehensive Plan, approved by the voters in 2006, called for a more significant buffer between development and the river.

“Now that the committee is working on more rural areas, they felt it was a good time to update this,” Planning Director Dan Bacon said.

The Nonesuch River is a tidal river that runs through Saco and Scarborough, and drains into Scarborough Marsh. It has a wide flood plain, which, Bacon said, can go up to 75 feet beyond the banks during heavy rains.

“It’s about at that level right now. This will be more of a buffer to the flood plain,” he said.

The 250-foot setback would protect the river from erosion and pollution particularly during flood season.

Changing the district to Stream Protection 2 would also offer land owners the opportunity to take advantage of incentives to conserve land through land trusts or the town. Developers would receive a density bonus, meaning they could have 1.5 homes per lot, if they put some land into resource protection.

“We’re not requiring that the land be protected, but we’re providing a carrot for that,” Bacon said.

The 250-foot setback would only apply to new developments. Current homes would not have restrictions for additions, garages and outbuildings beyond what is already in place for shoreland zones.

Scarborough already has several areas in Stream Protection 2 districts, including Stuart Brook, which was included in the district several years ago. In other wetlands deemed of special significance, such as Scarborough Marsh, the 250-foot setback is standard. Bird nesting areas and other environmental concerns are often determining factors in declaring a wetland of special significance.

The Planning Board will receive public comment on this proposed change at the meeting on Monday, April 5, at 7 p.m.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]