Wiscasset planning board

Apartments question, cannabis, beer biz nods, and solar site walk

Fri, 12/15/2023 - 8:45am

    The last time Peter Wells asked the planning board about the potential single-resident occupancy (SRO) apartments upstairs at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church on Hodge Street, the new Wiscasset Neighborhood Association (WNA) was concerned about that possible Amistad project and a resource center Amistad, now commonspace, was also looking to have at the church.

    That was in March. The center did not come to town after residents last summer voiced mixed views, selectmen wanted more information and commonspace withdrew its request. Wiscasset Newspaper recently reported the church’s senior warden said commonspace’s proposal for the apartments might be ready for the town in January.

    Monday night, Dec. 11, in a public hearing on proposed ordinance changes to meet state housing law LD 2003, Wells, no longer a resident, told the planning board he is working with WNA and wanted to know how the proposed changes might affect the would-be apartments. Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission’s Emily Rabbe responded, that is a little hard to answer since the town has not received an application. 

    “And without (that), it’s a little hard to quantify, because I don’t know what exactly they’re proposing other than ... what’s written in the paper.” And due to a prior commitment, Rabbe was not going to be able to attend a presentation the church announced for Dec. 14. Once there is an application,  “I’ll be able to ... give you a more thorough response.”

    Then Wells asked, “hypothetically,” if someone proposed 10 SROs in that district, how would the proposed ordinance changes for LD 2003 relate. Rabbe said she would first need to see if the lot size accommodates 10, or would it with a density bonus if the applicant submitted a covenant to maintain the units as affordable for 30 years and rent them to people whose incomes qualify.

    “Without a site plan or an actual plan, I really can’t give you a definitive answer, nor do I want to be held to something I say here tonight on a hypothetical,” Rabbe added.

    “I realize that,” Wells said, and he thanked her.

    The ordinance review committee has worked on the LD 2003-related ordinance changes a year and a half, and in earnest since about April, Rabbe said in the hearing.

    The proposal calls for accessory dwellings to be at least 190 square feet, unless the Technical Building Code and Standards Board adopts a different minimum standard. And in the Village I and II and Village Waterfront districts, an accessory dwelling “shall be no larger than 40% of the finished and heated portion of the single-family dwelling on the parcel, up to 1,000 square feet, whichever is less. No maximum size for an accessory dwelling unit is required in other districts, so long as the unit is smaller than the finished and heated portion of the single-family dwelling unit on the parcel,” the proposal reads. The full proposal is at wiscasset.org

    So is the proposed revised solar ordinance. Rabbe said it clarifies that ground-mounted systems under 4,200 square feet need a permit from the code enforcement officer, but not a site plan review by the planning board. “If they’re larger, that would still trigger a site plan review.” And ground-mounted systems that small, or a roof-mounted system on a single family home, would be allowed in all zones, Rabbe said.

    The board sent both the solar and housing proposals onto selectmen; nodded SeaGrass Group’s request to sell medical cannabis inside part of Mad Hatter, 291 Bath Road; and approved Aekeir Brewing’s 111 Main St. tap room, once payment is confirmed on water and sewer impact fees.

    Reporting on three members’ visit to Novel Energy Solutions’ proposed site of a solar array, 277 Gardiner Road, board member Al Cohen said it is rugged terrain, “way, way back in the woods ... To me it looked like an ideal use for it, because of the terrain and the fact that it has visibility from nobody else.”