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More Subcommittee Meeting Notes: August 2022

This vacant lot on Bodwell St. is being proposed for new housing.

The City Council’s Subcommittee’s met August 9, 2022. Read the reports from the Municipal Operations and Property Subcommittee here and the Public Safety Subcommittee here.

Zoning Subcommittee

Councilor Bob Stackpole and Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy were the members in attendance.

Proposed Amendments to the Urban Zone: Ms. Della Valle provided an update on proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance. One amendment relates to the uniform setback relationship (USR), which she said doesn’t work as it was intended. The purpose of the USR is to encourage development to happen in such a way that buildings in the Urban Zone are set back from the street similarly to their neighbors. The way the current ordinance is written, in the urban zone, front setback is determined by averaging the setbacks of the two buildings to the left and the two buildings to the right of the subject property. However, by using just four properties, one that is set way back from the street can skew the average significantly. This is the case on Bodwell St., where Kara Wilbur is looking to build on a vacant lot, but the house next door is set much farther back than all the others on the street. The proposed change will increase the number of lots in the calculation and clarify how to undertake the calculation to better reflect the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

A second proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance would make changes to the standard for private ways in the Urban Zone. Currently only three dwelling units are allowed on a private way. Rebecca Lapierre would like to develop a 2.5 lot on a private way that already has one house. Under the current standard she would only be able to build two more units there, which Ms. Della Valle said does not reflect the compact development that the City wants or expects in the Urban Zone. The proposed change would allow up to ten residential units, but with conditions, one of which is that the road would have to be paved. The Planning Board would be able to add additional standards as well, to ensure for example that emergency vehicles have sufficient access.

Deputy Mayor Herlihy said these are positive changes that will create more housing opportunities. Councilor Stackpole agreed that the amendments will address some unintentional deficiencies in the zoning ordinance. If the new private way standards work well, he said they might consider expanding them beyond the Urban Zone.

Solid Waste Subcommittee

Councilor Stackpole, Councilor Michael Termath and Deputy Mayor Herlihy are the members of this Subcommittee.

Curbside Composting: Public Works Director Matt Hill provided an update on the curbside composting program that was first proposed over a year ago. The grant application was delayed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, but has finally been processed and approved. He said the next step is to reach out to Garbage to Gardens, the Portland company that will handle pickup and delivery of the composting buckets, and set up a meeting to work out the implementation details.

Recycling Tagging: Mr. Hill had an update from Eco Maine on the recycling tagging program that was conducted earlier this summer in Sanford. The results showed that our contamination rate is low, meaning people aren’t attempting to recycle things they shouldn’t, but that the percentage of households that actually participate in recycling is low, at only about 50%. There was discussion on why the percentage is low, one suggestion was that it may be because Sanford doesn’t supply or even offer for purchase recycling containers. Another possibility is that the fairly high turnover among residents may mean people are unsure about how to recycle and what items may be recycled in Sanford. City Manager Steve Buck said people complain about the cost of the PAYT bags, but obviously the economics aren’t driving them to recycle, which would reduce the number of bags they have to use for trash. Deputy Mayor Herlihy suggested some educational outreach, showing how many bags could be saved by the average family if recyclables were sorted out, could be helpful.

Mr. Buck noted that the City just received a refund over $112,800 from Eco Maine, which is much more than anticipated, so the market for recyclables may be rebounding at last. With the cost of managing recyclables decreasing, he said it behooves the City to get more material out of the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream and into the recycling stream.

Casella: The City contracts with Casella to tip Sanford’s MSW, but Mr. Hill reported that a handful of times in the past three weeks when the trucks have arrived at Casella’s facility, the gates have been closed. Casella has not given him a reason for the closures, but he suspects labor shortages are the cause. The trucks can go to Eco Maine to tip the trash, but it costs much more than at Casella, so there may be an impact to the budget if this continues.

Mr. Buck said the current MSW contract with Casella goes through June 2025. He expects to start negotiating a new contract in early 2023. The Town Manager in North Berwick has offered to reenergize the consortium of 14 municipalities in southern Maine to consider future alternatives, so there may be other options going forward.

Transfer Station Hours: Mr. Hill reported that the new Transfer Station hours have been finalized, and will be 7:30 to 3:00 Tuesday through Friday, and 7:30 to noon on Saturdays. He said during the height of the pandemic, more people were renovating their homes, making the facility busier on Saturday afternoons, but that has begun to slow down again. The new hours will take effect Tuesday, August 23.

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