News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, April 18, 2013
Castine planning board approves concept of multi-family units in mobile home park
May be put to voters at town meeting

Members of the Castine Planning Board

Planning Board members, from left, Beverly Bishop, Kathy Eaton, Bob Friedlander, Chairman Doug Wellington, Doris Russell and Pär Kettis discuss a conditional zoning application for multi-family units on the Shore Road submitted by Doug Koos.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

The Planning Board held two public hearings on April 11, on a conditional zoning application for multifamily units on the Shore Road and on a new zoning ordinance. Both are slated as warrant articles for town meeting on June 1.

Doug Koos’ application is for a parcel on The Shore Road (Route 166A), currently zoned and operated as a mobile home park.

Koos proposes to build 16 apartments in multifamily units on a 4.5 acre parcel. He asks it be rezoned from mobile home park density requirements of 12,000 square feet per unit to allow him to place the units on 20,000 square feet of the parcel.

“If [voters] say no, we’ve put it to bed,” said Koos.

He said half of the units would be placed under restricted deeds as affordable housing.

“Is this going to answer the question of affordable housing for families?” asked member Kathy Eaton. “Essentially, this is a trailer park.”

“I call my rentals truly affordable,” said Koos, “for people making $12,000 a year.”

However, Koos could not say exactly how many buildings would house the 16 apartments. “I can honestly say I don’t know the answer. I want it to look good. If it’s attractive, people will want to live there.”

The application represents “a test case of contract rezoning,” said Bill Lane, of Gartley & Dorsky of Camden, who presented the conceptual plan.

Board members struggled to find a way to approve the application within the current ordinance language, which asks for specifics that are usually left for a site plan review, something not required until the area is actually rezoned.

“We are asked to make a finding of fact when we don’t know what [the site plan] will be,” said member Pär Kettis.

The board solved this by approving the concept, asking Koos to provide the board with the specific warrant, to be vetted by the town attorney. The board will then vote, in May, on whether to recommend selectmen place the warrant before voters at town meeting.

“I want to see affordable housing in Castine and I think this is the place to do it,” said member Doris Russell.

The vote on the proposed zoning ordinance was more straightforward. The board unanimously passed motions to recommend voter approval of a “baseline zoning ordinance” and for selectmen to hold “another town meeting at which there will be individual warrants for various proposed changes.”

The baseline ordinance is “supposed to be a slimmed down version without the controversy,” said Chairman Doug Wellington, referring to the ordinance proposed last fall by the now-disbanded Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee zoning committee.

“The things that pushed so many hot buttons in November…have been removed,” said Town Manager Dale Abernethy.

Those proposed changes will be addressed in separate warrant articles at a subsequent special town meeting.

Changes in the proposed ordinance allow the farmers’ market to be held on the town common and allow the CEO to issue permits for single-family residences, eliminate the need for permits for home repairs and streamline the contract zoning process.

It also defines affordable housing as “housing that meets the needs of families and others who wish to live in the Town of Castine, and whose household income is no more than 125% of the median income of Hancock County,” to be restricted by deed covenants or other “binding, long-term methods.”