Scarborough hopes changes boost housing diversity, solar energy

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SCARBOROUGH — The Town Council approved two zoning amendments, one to allow more diverse housing options and one that allows for residential solar panel arrays.

Councilors on Wednesday unanimously approved the amendments, both of which had been recommended by the Planning Board. Public hearings were held for each one, although no one spoke.

The amendment on housing options expands zoning limits for multi-family dwellings in the town’s Town and Village Center districts in the Oak Hill and Dunstan Landing neighborhoods. 

Zoning changes in the TVC districts allow for more mixed housing and single units in the same building with two- and three-bedroom dwellings. Previously, up to 12 units were allowed in a building, but the amendment has removed the limit. The change doesn’t alter the size limit of 10,000 square feet.

Councilors said the amendment will respond to a need in town.

“There is a real need in this town for affordable housing,” Councilor Jean Marie Caterina said. “One-bedrooms are needed by families just starting out and families looking to downsize.”

Examples of new housing choices include the Eastern Village neighborhood off Inspiration Drive, and the approval this summer of 50 Avesta Housing affordable housing units, most of which will be one-bedroom residences, at the historic Southgate House property at 577 U.S. Route 1. 

Town Planner Dan Bacon said the amendment won’t create too much of a change in the number of people who can live in the multi-unit buildings, but Councilor Shawn Babine had a concern about parking. He noted there will probably be one car per one-bedroom unit, which would require more parking spaces overall. A family in a three-bedroom may not have one car for every person, however.

“I hope that the Planning Department looks closely at traffic planning,” Babine said. “That’s the only concern I have with this type of change.”

Bacon said there would be enough parking spots for residents, but guests may park along the street, which is problematic given the narrowness of streets in developments. He said he would work on the issue.

There were no other concerns, and councilors said they had received no negative feedback from residents about the change.

Solar energy

The amendment to the renewable energy zoning ordinance, which gives residents the option of pulling power from free-standing solar arrays, is an addition to a 2009 ordinance that allows wind power in shared “common open space.”

The amendment would allow solar arrays to be installed in shared common space or open green space, such as parks or courtyards. 

The request for the zoning change was made by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland, which is working with ReVision Energy, Bacon said, to install a freestanding solar array to power a 13-home subdivision on a 5.5-acre parcel off Broadturn Road. The project was approved by the council in 2014 and is under construction. 

“We felt (the zoning amendment) was a good idea for this project, and for the whole town,” Bacon said.

Future projects that propose using solar arrays must go before the Planning Board for site approval. The board will need to make sure the size of the array is proportional to the size of the neighborhood, that the array only serves the intended neighborhood, and that it wouldn’t compromise other features in an open space, such as wetland protection.

Councilors said bringing more solar energy to town is a smart idea.

“I think it encourages alternative energy and I fully support it,” Councilor Will Rowan said.

Alex Acquisto contributed to this report. Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.