Thursday, May 23, 2013
Gorham officials have positioned South Gorham to be developed into a traditional New England village -- and the town's next commercial hub -- by approving nearly identical contract zones for 11 properties in the residential and rural area.
But the first business to express interest in moving into the new zone wants to change the rules.
Cumberland Farms, a Massachusetts-based chain with stores in 11 states, wants to build a gas station and convenience store in the field in front of Mercy Hospital's facility on County Road.
The property's owner, Hans Hansen, has requested changes to his contract zone to allow a free-standing sign along the road and gas pumps and a parking area in front of the building.
Hansen characterized the requested changes as minor, but Town Councilor Michael Phinney said they "fly in the face" of the town's vision for the area.
"I have no problem with Cumberland Farms coming in, but I do want to protect that zone," Phinney said.
Cumberland Farms' proposal wouldn't create the kind of streetscape that's envisioned in the zoning -- with buildings close to the street, parking in back and sidewalks in front, Phinney said.
Hansen, who tried for years to change the zoning of his property and surrounding land, finally got the Town Council's approval in October for a contract zone for his 24 acres.
That prompted 10 of his neighbors, who saw commercial development of the area as inevitable, to seek the same changes, which allow offices and small retail shops.
To fill the gaps between those properties and make the zoning uniform for the entire area, the town is considering creating a new zone around the intersection of County Road and South Street -- routes 22 and 114 -- that mirrors the contract zones.
Called the South Gorham Village District, the zone would stretch for about 1.5 miles along Route 22, with buildings with pitched roofs, clapboard siding, fabric awnings and shutters on the windows.
Phinney said he doesn't object to the design of the Cumberland Farms building, just the way it would be positioned on the site -- with the pumps and parking closer to the road than is allowed in the contract zone.
He was the only councilor to vote last week against having the requested changes reviewed by the council's Ordinance Committee, which he chairs.
He wanted to make it clear that he was "not going to support that kind of change," he said, although in general he wouldn't oppose "tweaks" to the rules.
Hansen said it would be premature for him to discuss the proposal before the review process has started. He said there aren't any major issues and he's optimistic that any minor ones will be worked out.
Mostly, Hansen is excited to have a business interested in the property.
"I think it's all positive," he said.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: