Avoiding ‘40 mini homes’ and eyeing short-term rental rules: Wiscasset talks LD 2003

Sun, 09/10/2023 - 6:00am

Tiny homes would not be an option as accessory homes, at least not initially, under Wiscasset Selectman Pam Dunning’s ideas for an ordinance. The board on Sept. 5 was discussing what guidance to give the ordinance review committee on short-term rentals and on accessory homes as Wiscasset and other Maine towns address LD 2003. The state measure aimed at adding to affordable housing stock takes effect next July.

Dunning said she had “very specific ideas” for an ordinance on accessory homes, including minimum sizes and setbacks, “so we don’t end up with 40 mini homes on a one-acre lot ...”

She proposed a one-bedroom accessory dwelling be at least 800 square feet, and incrementally larger depending on the number of bedrooms. “It’s not lavish, it’s not tiny. It’s just average.” Dunning favored requiring a lot with multiple homes to have a 20-foot setback from the property line, 50-foot setbacks between the homes on the lot, and parking at each home. The setbacks would serve as green space and the parking for each home would avoid street-side parking, she said.

The minimum size on accessory homes will ensure they are comfortable and year-round, not camps to go to two weeks of the year, Dunning said.

Selectman Terry Heller said she would not oppose one or two well-made tiny homes helping answer a need for affordable housing. And she hoped to avoid having so many rules “that every time we turn around, there needs to be a waiver.”

Dunning said the town could consider relaxing some of the rules after it sees what property owners do. “(LD 2003) is brand new. We don’t know what we’re going to be dealing with. Let’s lock it in a little bit ... I’m not for leaving it wide open and just having people do whatever and then (the town) trying to lock it down later after chaos has already begun.”

“The spirit of the law is affordable housing,” Heller responded. Then she said what Dunning was saying was reasonable. And Chair Sarah Whitfield reiterated they were just giving the ORC a starting point. A public hearing would precede any town vote, she noted. 

Whitfield asked for board members to send her any questions to forward Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission’s Emily Rabbe. 

On short-term rentals, Selectman William “Bill” Maloney suggested requiring proof of insurance and, “just so we know where they are,” a business license. Whitfield said she would not vote on the matter because she has an air B and B, but as an owner she would not at all oppose the two suggestions. She treats it as a business when filing taxes, and she legally must have insurance.

Maloney also proposed limiting stays to 29 days. Heller asked why. Thirty days makes someone eligible for “welfare from the town,” Maloney said. 

Also Sept. 5, selectmen nodded a liquor license renewal for Water Street Kitchen & Bar, 15 Water St., and business licenses for Bellearth Studio, 234 Willow Lane; Flour Child Bakery, 31 West View Road, on the condition the cooking area has a fire protection system; and Midcoast Residential Service, 28 Middle St.

Maloney agreed to be the board’s liaison to the airport advisory committee; Heller, climate action; and Dunning, investment.