FREEPORT — There are more than 600 properties along the coast of Freeport that could be affected by state-mandated changes to shoreland zoning regulations.
Residents and property owners will have the opportunity to ask questions and view the zoning map on Wednesday, Feb. 4, in a Town Hall meeting conducted by the Planning Board and Town Planner Donna Larson.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is requiring all communities to update their Shoreland Zoning regulations by July 1 with minimum state requirements.
Shoreland zoning has been in place since 1987 and is a method to protect the environment, prepare for rising sea levels, improve water quality and maintain the aesthetics of the coastline.
It is defined as the area 250 feet inland from the high-water mark along the coast, 75 feet on either side of some streams, and areas surrounding significant wetlands.
One of the major changes will impact eroding areas identified by state geologists. The setback in those areas will be measured from the top of the bank rather than the previously measured high-water mark. While the setback will still be 75 feet, the area included will grow because of the new starting point.
According to Larson, these changes will impact some property owners more than others. She said a map outlining the new setback line is available online and at Town Hall.
“It is very important that property owners call, e-mail or visit me at Town Hall to review the changes,” she said. “I am happy to give each resident individual attention and explain how this will affect their land.”
Another change will include a minimum land area requirement for tidal and non-tidal lots within the shoreland zone. Larson said this change will mostly affect land owners in South Freeport Village. It could mean those who had been able to split a lot may not be able to do so under the proposed changes.
In addition, Larson said the state has removed small pockets of previously restricted Resource Protection areas, but did not give explanations for the action. She said the change in restrictions would remove limits on some
“The Resource Protection land is by far the most restricted district,” Larson said. “And there are many areas proposed to be removed.”
At the public meeting on Feb. 4, the Planning Board will discuss the town’s ability to treat expansions within the required setback for existing buildings. As it is now, structures can be expanded up to 30 percent within the required setback. The other option would allow a total expansion of 1,000 square feet.
The Planning Board will also suggest removing timber harvesting regulations in shoreland zoning areas and transferring the responsibility to the state. They will also discuss transferring regulations for piers, wharfs and docks to the Coastal Water Commission.
An letter to residents affected by the zoning changes was sent Jan. 20. As a result, Larson said, she has received more than 50 calls about the changes.
For further questions, contact Larson at 865-4743 ext. 103, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To view the zoning map with the proposed changes, visit freeportmaine.com.
The public meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Town Hall Council Chambers.