Zoning change aims to expand housing

BAR HARBOR — A proposed change to the requirements for minimum lot area per family in downtown districts would help make it possible for property owners to build more housing units, town officials said.

“It would hopefully put some housing where it’s needed,” Planning Director Bob Osborne said at a joint workshop Nov 9 with the Town Council and Planning Board.

The change “adjusts the minimum lot area per family in the Downtown Village I and Downtown Village II districts … from 750 square feet to 400 square feet,” Osborne wrote in a memo to the Town Council. “The effect of this change is: at the current standard, a 5,000-square-foot lot located in these districts would allow six dwelling units. After the change, the 5,000-square-foot lot would allow 12 dwelling units.”

Osborne said the downtown districts currently allow the “multifamily dwelling II,” which is five or more dwelling units on a lot. With the current minimum lot area per family, few lots are big enough to allow that many units. “That standard is just sort of a tease, unless you have a massive estate,” he said.

Councilors expressed support for the change, which would be draft warrant article C on the June 2017 town meeting ballot. Next, the proposal heads to public hearings before the Planning Board, then the council, then review by the Warrant Committee.

“This is really just a minor incremental improvement,” Planning Board member John Fitzpatrick said. “We’re not going to address housing until we understand what the problem is, and I don’t think we have good data.”

He said the City of Ellsworth recently commissioned a comprehensive study of “Housing Opportunities for the Age 55 and Older Market” from Southern Maine firm BCM Planning. The study cost approximately $32,000.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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