SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday was briefed about proposed changes to the city’s shoreland zoning ordinance in advance of a Feb. 4 public hearing.
Although many of the revisions are needed to bring the city ordinance into compliance with state statutes, there will be several policy decisions to be considered by the council.
They include a proposal to reduce the minimum width of city streets by 2 feet, from 30 feet to 28 feet, and a provision that would allow the Planning Board to further reduce the minimum requirement to 24 feet.
Also, off-street parking areas for retail and commercial users would be reduced by one space, from five to four per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area.
Mark Eyerman, a consultant who has been guiding the city through its zoning revisions for the last two years, said that public safety and public works personnel were involved in the discussion to reduce road widths – a measure that would reduce toxic storm-water runoff.
The revised shoreland zoning ordinance sets storm water standards and addresses properties within the shoreland zone and flood plains, as established by the Federal Emergency Management Association’s flood insurance maps.
Shoreland zones are areas within 250 feet of coasts, rivers, great ponds and certain fresh-water wetlands, or within 75 feet of certain streams. The planning office was unable to provide an estimate on how many properties would be affected by the proposed changes prior to The Forecaster’s deadline.
The shoreland amendments would eliminate Resource Protections zones and expand Stream Protection Overlay Districts to include the entire width of the 100-year flood plain if it extends more than 75 feet from the stream.
The revised ordinance would also toughen storm water thresholds for projects that undergo Planning Board site plan review, forcing them to address the quality of their storm water runoff as well as the quantity, which is currently the only requirement.
The proposal would require a post-construction storm water management plan for developments that disturb more than 15,000 square feet. These developments would be required to have their systems inspected by an independent third party, who would issue a report to the city.
The city’s director of water resources would maintain a list of qualified inspectors who have degrees in environmental science or civil engineering or can demonstrate expertise in these areas. Third-party inspectors could not have financial interests in or be employees of the companies being reviewed.
“It can’t be the owner’s janitor that goes and inspects these things,” Eyerman said.
Minor subdivisions, or those that disturb less than 15,000 square feet, would have to submit a basic storm water management plan to treat the first half inch of storm water runoff, which is considered the most toxic. These projects would not be required to conduct annual inspections.
New buildings or expansions greater than 5,000 square feet that do not need Planning Board approval would simply have to submit a drainage plan, which planners would encourage, but not require, to include some level of treatment for runoff.
Other proposed changes would protect areas that are currently not addressed in the city ordinance. Mill Creek and Kimball Brook would be included in the protected zone, a move that goes beyond the state requirements.
Smaller tributaries feeding Long Creek would also face tighter regulations that would be specific to the width of the stream valley, in addition to performance standards.
City Councilor Maxine Beecher applauded the committee members who have been working on this ordinance since last spring: Barbara Dee of the Conservation Commission, William Arnold of the Land Trust, Jerry Jalbert of the Board of Appeals, local businessman Ralph Sama, resident Michael Eastman, Rob Schreiber of the Planning Board, attorney Michael Vaillencourt and city staff.
Beecher said Peter Whitman, a consultant for Ocean Properties, which owns Sable Oaks, began attending meetings to represent big business interests and served as a valuable resource for the group. Whitman at several points offered to run the ordinance past the company’s engineering firm and other Ocean Properties staff for their opinions.
Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser said the zoning committee allowed the Ocean Properties team to review the proposed changes, as well as other engineering firms. No feedback has been received, he said.
The proposed changes were also reviewed by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“(The state storm water specialist) thought it was something they should maybe use as an alternative model ordinance,” Haeuser said. “We thought that was a pretty good vote of confidence.”
A public hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. in City Hall council chambers. Information can be obtained online at SouthPortland.org or by calling city planners at 767-7603.
The Planning Board is scheduled to vote on proposed revisions Feb. 24. The City Council has scheduled an in-depth workshop on March 6 with final action slated for April 22, which would coincide with Earth Day.
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.