New Cumberland panel to discuss lot size reductions

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CUMBERLAND — Proposed updates to the Comprehensive Plan will go before the Planning Board next week, although the proposed merger of two residential zones will be considered separately.

At its 7 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, March 18, to be held at Town Hall, the board will discuss updating demographic information to match the 2010 census, developing two new uses for the Office Commercial districts along Route 1 for restaurants and retail establishments, and updating relevant maps in the 2009 plan.

But the Comprehensive Plan Update Committee’s recommendation that the four-acre housing lot minimum in the Rural Residential 1 zone be reduced to the two-acre minimum already specified in the Rural Residential 2 zone, and that the zones be merged, will now be discussed by another group.

Several residents have expressed concern about the impact of the merging on the town’s “rural lifestyle.”

“It’s an equity issue,” Town Planner Carla Nixon, said previously. “We don’t want to have more growth, per se; it’s just that when we looked at why are some parts of town two acres, and some four acres, we just didn’t really see anything to hang our hats on for that. And the area that we’re looking at … is not a huge area. When you look at just the number of parcels that actually would be affected, it’s very few.”

The Planning Board and Town Council have discussed the matter several times in recent months. The Planning Board tabled the matter last December.

The council unanimously voted Feb. 24 to withhold updates to the land use chapter of the plan relating to the two RR zones “except for changing the current RR 1 to RR 2 northwest of the power lines at Wilson Road to the Turnpike,” and to have a new and larger committee study those zones and recommend any changes to the Town Council.

Town Manager Bill Shane noted last week that it “appears many of the homes in the surrounding area are in RR2 anyway, or in a contract zone with (half-acre) lots, (so) the change seemed not to have much impact to the land uses already occurring in the area,” and the power line “provided a natural break between neighborhoods.”

The council will advertise late this month for volunteers for the new committee. Shane said he expects the council’s Appointments Committee to interview applicants next month, and that the group will start meeting twice a month in May.

Council Chairman Bill Stiles asked state Rep. Steve Moriarty, D-Cumberland, a former councilor, to chair the committee, and Moriarty has agreed to do so, Shane said.

The council has asked the committee to submit a recommendation by Nov. 10. A community survey regarding the potential changes for the two RR zones is planned.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.