BRUNSWICK — After three-and-a-half years, more than 100 public meetings, thousands of hours of work, and six separate drafts, Brunswick’s new zoning ordinance was approved unanimously by the town council at the Aug. 7 regular meeting.

The work of the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite Committee, the new ordinances are intended to simplify Brunswick’s zoning districts and clarify rules for landowners. Previously, Brunswick’s zoning ordinance included more districts than some major cities.

“It’s gratifying, if nothing else, to say that we’re finally beginning the town council phase of this project,” said Charlie Frizzle, chair of the planning board and ZORC.

The rewrite of the zoning ordinance had five distinct goals: Implement the 2008 comprehensive plan; simplify the zoning district structure; integrate Brunswick Landing into the standards; improve user friendliness, and improve neighborhood edge protections.

Anna Breinich, director of planning and development, said there is still work to be done in the future. Tackling things like dark sky lighting, short-term rentals (like AirBnB), shoreland protection overlays, and rules for retail and medical marijuana establishments are still in the works.

Public comment on the new zoning ordinance was mixed. Many residents expressed approval, and were eager to have the new ordinances implemented so that projects that were on hold could be started.

Mattie Daughtry, a state representative for Brunswick, was on hand as a citizen to express her approval. She and her business partner Philip Welsch were planning to open a small downtown brewery, something that isn’t permitted under the current ordinance. “We’re really excited to learn that this problem is addressed in this new zoning ordinance. It would allow us to open a brewery with a tasting room right in the downtown district.”

Approval was also important to the new elementary school project, located on the site of the former Jordan Acres school. It was in a state of limbo as two separate ordinances had different requirements, affecting the design of the school.

While many were happy with the changes, other residents were less enthused, particularly those along the New Meadows River, who felt the new ordinance was more restrictive on their property rights in addition to lumping them together with Mere Point.

Residents in some downtown areas, as well, were also wary of added uses and the combining of certain districts.

Despite the concerns, and a lengthy debate, the council decided to suspend the rules and vote on the ordinance at its regular meeting.

Councilor Kathy Wilson said she initially wasn’t planning to vote on the ordinance, but public testimony convinced her. “Knowing that this has taken so long. Knowing that the very minute we pass it, we can start fixing it,” she said.

Councilor Steve Walker opposed the vote, objecting to the way the rewrite came about. “Throwing it up in the air and putting it back together wasn’t the right process. Rushing this through in a single meeting in August is not very responsive to the public, in my opinion,” he said.

Despite objections, council eventually moved forward with a vote on the zoning ordinance, with some amendments to clarify sections.

Councilor Sarah Brayman said that while the document isn’t perfect, it fits the needs of Brunswick. “I think compromise is one of the hardest things we do. I think that this document shows that, and it’s been a long haul, and many, many hours,” she said.

A full copy of the new ordinance is available at www.brunswickme.org.

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