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New zoning not among Cumberland Comp Plan updates

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New zoning not among Cumberland Comp Plan updates

CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved updates to the Comprehensive Plan, while establishing a new group to continue the review of other, more controversial zoning proposals.

The panel also supported conduit financing and payment in lieu of taxes arrangements with the Friends School of Portland, which is building a new headquarters in Cumberland.

Approved changes to the Comprehensive Plan include updating demographic information to match the 2010 census, considering establishment of an affordable housing overlay zone in West Cumberland, expanding public water to more areas of town, and updating relevant maps in the 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 be discussed by a new short-term land use committee.

That proposal has stirred reaction from residents concerned about the impact of the change on the town's "rural lifestyle."

Councilor Shirley Storey-King said people from all over town are sought to serve on the committee, which will also discuss the development of two new uses for the Office Commercial districts along U.S. Route 1 for restaurants and retail establishments.

The ad-hoc committee, which could have as many as 14 residents, will have no more than two councilors and two Planning Board members. State Rep. Steve Moriarty, D-Cumberland, a former councilor, has agreed to chair the committee, Town Manager Bill Shane has said.

A community survey regarding land use regulation is planned, the committee is expected to submit a report to the council in January 2015.

The town is accepting applications through May 1. Call the town's planning department at 829-2206 for more information, or download an application at
cumberlandmaine.com.

Friends School

Earlier in the meeting the Town Council unanimously approved a conduit financing request from the Friends School of Portland, which plans to open in a new, 15,000-square-foot building in Cumberland in 2015.

The Quaker school, which purchased 21 acres of property at 11 U.S. Route 1, near the Falmouth town line, has been serving nearly 100 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students. It has leased space from the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing on Mackworth Island in Falmouth since 2006, and could be in Cumberland for the 2015-2016 school year.

The school requested $2.7 million for building construction through conduit financing. Under the arrangement, the town serves as a "conduit" for the financing, with its strong credit rating allowing the school to borrow from TD Bank at a reduced interest rate.

"This has no obligation to the town of Cumberland," Shane said. "The Friends School is entirely responsible, should that debt default."

The Finance Authority of Maine, or FAME, must also approve the financing arrangement.

The Town Council also approved a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, program for the Friends School. As a nonprofit, the school is not obligated to pay taxes, but has volunteered to do so through the PILOT program, Shane said.

The school will pay $5,000 a year through fiscal 2018, and then 85 percent of the non-school and county tax assessment from fiscal 2019 onward.

"We're very appreciative that they've come forward and recognized ... their stewardship to be part of the community," Shane said.

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