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Subcommittee Reviews Proposed Changes to Residential Zones

Single-family homes on Bateman Street

Single family homes on Bateman Street. Credit: Google

By Zendelle Bouchard

The City Council’s Zoning Subcommittee met November 14, 2023. Subcommittee members Councilor Bob Stackpole, Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy and Councilor Jonathan Martell reviewed proposed amendments to Chapter 280 of the Sanford City ordinances in response to the passage of LD 2003, a state law that mandates communities make changes to zoning ordinances to increase opportunities for housing growth.

ADUs: LD 2003 requires that accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as in-law apartments, be allowed anywhere residential development is allowed. Sanford’s zoning ordinance already complies with this. Any lot in the Growth Zone of the city (which is defined in Sanford’s Comprehensive Plan) may have up to two ADUs per lot, while other areas may have one. In addition, LD 2003 prohibits municipalities from requiring offstreet parking for an ADU, so the new proposed ordinance deletes that language.

City Planner Erin Moriarty also recommends amending the ordinance to allow ADUs of up to 40% of the living area of the principal dwelling, or 1,000 square feet, whichever is greater. Subcommittee members had no issue with that change.

Moriarty also recommended removing the requirement for the principal dwelling unit to be owner occupied. The Planning Board recently reviewed the proposed changes, and members did not make a decision on this change, but instead deferred to the City Council. After some discussion, the members of the Subcommittee were in consensus that the owner occupancy requirement be retained. Moriarity said she felt that was “exclusionary zoning,” to which City Manager Buck responded that “all zoning is exclusionary.” He pointed out that LD 2003 is not specific on the issue of owner occupancy, which means communities can make the choice to be more stringent with their requirements.

Residential Zones: LD 2003 requires that any lot within the Growth Zone that allows residential use may have up to four dwelling units, provided they meet setbacks and density requirements. The term “single family” will therefore be obsolete, so the proposed amendments merge the Single Family Residential zone into the Residential Development zone. Outside of the Growth Zone, two dwelling units are allowed in areas where housing is permitted. Planning Director Jamie Cole noted that most existing single-family lots will not be able to accommodate four dwelling units due to Sanford’s density requirements. “A lot of single-family neighborhoods will stay single family,” he said.

Public hearings on these changes will be held at the Dec. 5 City Council meeting. The Planning Department is working on additional zoning amendments to increase housing opportunities while preserving the character of the rural parts of Sanford and Springvale. These will be presented and discussed at future meetings.

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