Yarmouth council rejects bid for smaller homes

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council last week rejected a Planning Board recommendation to grant a contract zone for a three-lot subdivision at the corner of Bates and Hillside streets.

The council also unanimously amended the Village 2 and Village 3 architectural and landscape standards to comply with the Village Center Character-Based Development Code. Village 2 runs along Marina Road and Village 3 runs along Bridge Street.

Under town zoning, the Medium Density Residential zone that includes the Bates-Hillside property requires 1-acre minimum lot size. But Ed Libby wanted to divide his 0.4-acre lot at 100 Bates St., which contains a single family home, into three lots.

The Planning Board unanimously recommended giving Libby the agreement, but councilors voted 6-1 against the proposal, with Vice Chairman Andy Kittredge in the minority.

Under the application, public benefit would have included construction of a new sidewalk along Bates Street, preservation of the 1899 Josie Dunn Home and $4,000 to make drainage repairs on the site.

Additionally, Libby said this would increase the housing stock within walking distance from the Village Center, which would add to the “vibrancy” of the neighborhood, support local businesses, increase tax revenue and enhance the appearance of the vacant lot.

According to state law, conditional or contract zoning must be consistent with the town’s growth management programs, establish rezoned areas that are consistent with the existing and permitted uses, and only include conditions and restrictions that relate to the physical development or operation of the property. The law does not require a public benefit.

Under town zoning, contract or conditional zoning is particular to the circumstance of each lot or structure and “is available only when the Town Council determines it advances the public good.”

In a memo to the council, the Planning Board said the project “demonstrates how small infill houses can be integrated into the fabric of the neighborhood adjacent to the Village Center.”

Council Chairman Rob Waeldner said he spoke with Planning Board Chairman Tom Federle about roles of the council and board in reviewing contract zone agreements.

“His view is that the Planning Board’s role is to evaluate the application as to whether it’s consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and they leave it to the Town Council to determine if the public good requirement is met,” Waeldner said.

Town Planner Alex Jaegerman agreed, saying the board “defers largely to the council.”

Lynne Seeley, of Lafayette Street, was one of a few residents who spoke in support of the project at the Sept. 20 meeting.

“(The MDR Distirct) has been designated as a growth area, but with one-acre zoning, you can’t accommodate growth in the village,” Seeley, who chaired the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, said. “This contract zone is trying to do what our Comprehensive Plan has called for since 1993.”

Some councilors said they support infill in the Village District and would like to see something done with the lot, but they were not convinced the public benefit was great enough to warrant a zoning exception.

Councilor Richard Plourde said he believes the council is “compelled” to set an “extremely high bar for what constitutes public good with regards to this proposal.”

Councilor Pat Thompson said the agreement is not about “what a great neighbor (Libby) would be.

“We are statutorily required to ensure, before we grant a contract zone (agreement), that there is a definable public benefit. I didn’t hear one,” Thompson said.

Councilor Tim Shannon said he would like to see something happen on the lot, but said he’d be more likely to support subdividing the parcel into two lots, rather than three.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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