Kittery boards throw out proposed subdivision cap

By Jesse Scardina

October 07. 2014 2:01AM

ClusterKITTERY, Maine – The Town Council and Planning Board convened Monday night for a workshop discussing proposed amendments to Article 16 of the town’s Land Use and Development Code.

Topics of discussion included updating the language of the soil suitability portion of the code, while issues pertaining to additional holding tanks in Kittery Point and the limitation of how many homes could be built in a subdivision at three in the part of the town that lacks sewer, which is defined as the area of town north of Spruce Creek, were removed from the proposal due to lack of agreement and potential legal issues, according to Planning Board Chairman Tom Emerson.

“I think the more divisive pieces have been pulled out of the proposal,” Emerson said after the hour-long workshop. “Really the only two that were that way, the holding tanks issue and the subdivision issue, and between a combination of disagreement and legal perspective from the Maine Municipal Association, those pieces have been pulled.”

Emerson said that at the board’s second meeting in October, it will take into consideration what was talked about at the workshop and make any small changes to the proposal if needed before voting on whether to send the proposal to the Town Council for approval. To do that, Emerson said, requires four like votes. The board previously tried to vote to move the proposal to the town council, but didn’t reach the necessary quorum, Emerson said.

Talk of limiting subdivisions to up to three lots or dwelling units in parts of Kittery without sewer was a topic of contention and disagreement leading up to the workshop, ultimately acting as the impetus of Susan Tuveson’s resignation from the board in late September, citing concerns that some colleagues seem opposed to residential development.

Between disagreements about whether the limit on subdivisions in sewer-less parts of the town and questions regarding the legality of such an ordinance, forced the board to scrap the proposed change.

In the joint Planning Board and Town Council workshop packet, there were lists of pros and cons from the Planning Board members about limiting the number of lots in a subdivision, as well as legal advice from MMA officials.

“I have no problem with your (Comprehensive Plan’s) objective to steer intensive development toward sewered areas and limit it in unsewered areas,” said Richard Flewelling, assistant director of the MMA legal services department. “My concern all along has been that a restriction on ‘subdivisions’ of four or more units fails to capture equally intensive development that’s not a subdivision.”

The board’s goal is to follow the guidelines of the comprehensive plan, which was last updated in 2012, and steer development toward certain areas and to prohibit extensive suburban growth and prevent overbuilding in more rural, conservation-based areas of the town.

“This area is very hard to put large subdivisions in,” Town Council Vice Chairman Russell White said of the area north of Spruce Creek. “There are a lot of wetlands and sewer issues, lots of problems and lots of developmental constraints. This helps recognize what they are.”

If the board approves the changes at its October meeting, it will then be given to the Town Council, which will review the proposal before holding a public hearing at a yet-to-be-determined date, to initiate public input.

If the board makes substantial changes to its proposal, it will need to host another public hearing, but Emerson doesn’t believe there will be wholesale changes to the proposal, which a board subcommittee spent roughly 200 hours drafting.

The proposed update to Article, which refers to soil suitability, was championed by both the board and Town Council as a necessary change to update the language of the code.

“The intention of the change is to bring current practices of soil experts into the code,” said Karen Kalmar, a member of the Planning Board.

Councilman White agreed.

“It makes the Planning Board’s job of reviewing a plan much clearer by straightening out the rules,” he said.