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Major changes planned for Brunswick downtown review process

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Major changes planned for Brunswick downtown review process

BRUNSWICK — The Planning Board will hold a public hearing next week on an ordinance overhaul that officials hope will streamline planning processes in the historic downtown district.

The board's May 21 meeting at 7 p.m. will give the public the opportunity to comment on changing how the Village Review Board works. The board is also planning an expansion of the review board's historic district, as recommended in the town's 2008 Comprehensive Plan.

The purpose of the Village Review Board is to "protect and preserve the architectural context and historical integrity of downtown neighborhoods" around Pleasant and Maine streets, according to the ordinance.

Planning and Development Director Anna Breinich said the ordinance will return authority to the review board for approving demolitions, and create more certainty in the overall planning process for development in the downtown historic district.

The Town Council voted 7-1 last December to remove approval authority from the review board for demolition permits, temporarily shifting the responsibility to the Planning Board.

The council gave both boards a deadline of June 1 to write a new ordinance that creates a more streamlined process for the review board. Otherwise, the authority of approving demolitions will automatically revert to the review board, with no changes to the ordinance.

"It was the criteria that needed to be fixed," Breinich said. "It's been a matter of trying to focus protection on (the district's historic features)."

Breinich said the proposed ordinance will create new classification and tier systems that will help determine what level of review is required when a development is proposed.

If a developer plans new construction, demolition or any other changes, it will only require a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Village Review Board if the property is deemed a "contributing" structure, or a "non-contributing" structure that is visible from a public right-of-way.

Contributing structures include properties listed on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places; properties within a National Register Historic District, as determined by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and properties more than 50 years old that have been identified for "regional or local architectural, cultural, and historic significance" by the town.

"We're trying to make it more specific to the (kind of buildings) we're trying to protect," Breinich said.

In addition, Breinich said the review board's design guidelines for new construction or renovations will be more clear.

"You don't want an ordinance to stymie creativity," Breinich said, "but you do want one that has some predictability for the applicant."

A document of the proposed zoning ordinance can be viewed on the town's website at brunswickme.org.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.