CUMBERLAND — Town officials are taking steps to prevent future retail development along Route 1 that was mistakenly allowed when they updated Cumberland’s zoning last year.

The Town Council issued a three-month moratorium June 6 on retail uses in the Office Commercial South District, a wedge-shaped area in Cumberland Foreside, between Route 1 and Interstate 295, just north of the Falmouth town line.

The goal is to block low-end retail businesses along the town’s 3-mile stretch of Route 1. Town officials want to attract more substantial office, commercial and light industrial uses that generate more property taxes and higher-paying jobs but create less traffic and other strains on town services.

“It would be a shame to use land in that area for purposes that would have little economic benefit for the community,” said Town Manager Bill Shane. “We don’t have any pressure for retail right now, so why allow it to sneak in?”

Shane said there are plenty of retail operations a few miles south, in Falmouth, and a few miles north, in Yarmouth. Town officials are scheduled to rectify the zoning glitch by the end of July.

The moratorium applies to eight lots in particular, covering less than 25 acres, where retail uses were allowed by “special exception” in the Office Commercial South District, Shane said. Two of the lots have houses, one lot has an assisted-living facility and five lots are vacant, he said. None of the property owners has filed retail development plans.

Retail mistakenly became a “permitted use” in the district when town officials streamlined the project-review process, doing away with special exceptions and defining various permitted uses in each district.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. July 19 on a proposal to remove “retail” and “associated retail” from the list of permitted uses in the Office Commercial South District.

Business and professional offices would continue to be permitted in the district, as would research facilities, residential care facilities, light manufacturing, hotels and motels and day-care centers.

The board is expected to vote on the retail question and forward its recommendation to the council, which will vote on the matter July 25, Shane said.

More than 50 acres of the Office Commercial South District are designated as a mixed-use contract zone that David Chase of Falmouth is developing in partnership with the town. Town officials review each project in the zone.

Approved in 2007, the contract zone has one auxiliary retail operation, for Exactitude, a custom millwork company with offices in Bangor and South Portland. The company agreed to move to town next year after the Town Council promised in January to refund as much as $500,000 in property taxes over 20 years.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]