SOUTH PORTLAND — The Planning Board on Tuesday night sent a unanimous positive recommendation to the City Council for zoning changes to strengthen environmental protection in the city’s shoreland and flood zones.
Many of the changes are mandated by state and federal agencies to allow South Portland homeowners to be able to purchase flood insurance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Other changes, however, go above those mandates and will essentially result in policy changes for the city.
Perhaps the most significant change is a reduction in the minimum street width and parking requirements for new development. The change is designed to reduce the amount impervious surface, largely blamed for polluting waterways with motor oil and other toxins during rainstorms.
Planning Board member Don Russell called it “a seismic shift” from the old habit of putting development ahead of the environment.
“This part of the plan should not be taken lightly,” Russel said. “This is a significant and very proud piece.”
Giving landowners the ability to reduce the size of their parking lots, Russell said, essentially gives business owners an economic incentive to help the environment. But, if a developer decides to develop an area of unused parking, they would have to upgrade the the entire property’s storm-water system.
The amendments also expand the list of protected streams. Anthoine Creek and Jackson Brook would become stream protection zones, requiring 40-foot setbacks from each stream for construction. Performance standards would have to be met for projects within 75 feet.
Those amendments, which go above state and federal mandates, also limit reconstruction options for properties within the 40-foot setback of protected streams and the shoreland protection zone.
Jordan Avenue resident Steve Onos criticized the decision to include the two additional streams and not the numerous others throughout the city. Those choices, he said, seem arbitrary.
“My concern is you’ve outlined a few areas, but you haven’t looked at the whole picture,” Onos said. “There are wet areas and streams all over the city that are not included.”
The proposed amendments would also strengthen storm-water requirements for subdivisions greater than 15,000 square feet. Those developments would have to treat storm-water quality in addition to quantity. Developers would also have to draft and submit a maintenance plan for their systems and provide the city with an annual report, authored by a third party.
In addition to placing several newspaper ads, the city twice notified affected property owners about the zoning changes by direct mailings. Residents who received notice and still have questions are being asked to call Planning Director Tex Haeuser at 767-7649, or to stop by the planning office on E Street. Details about the proposed changes can also be found on the city’s Web site, SouthPortland.org.
The City Council will hold a workshop on the amendments on March 9 at the South Portland Community Center. The council must then hold two public hearings and vote twice before the amendments take effect.
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.