In three back-to-back late-night meetings last week, Cape Elizabeth residents made very clear that while they love neighborhood coffee shops and eateries, they do not want bars in their two tiny neighborhood business zones.

On Monday, April 14, the Town Council heard again from residents opposed to Rudy’s of the Cape owner Mary Page operating a bar in her small eatery/convenience store.

On Tuesday, April 15, the Planning Board heard from many of the same residents opposed to a proposal to reduce wetlands setbacks in the neighborhood business district, which would allow currently non-conforming business – such as Rudy’s – to expand.

On Wednesday, April 16, community members were asked to envision what kind of future they would like their neighborhood business districts to have, as part of the more long-term – but still inter-related – process of implementing the Comprehensive Plan.

At the Planning Board meeting, residents begged the board to protect wetlands and keep the current 250-foot buffer zone, which, by design, would keep Rudy’s from expanding.

At the Comprehensive Plan meeting, they said they miss the now-defunct The Cookie Jar, formerly located at 544 Shore Road, and would like to have businesses like bakeries, coffee shops, small restaurants and small retailers that serve neighborhood needs.

Not desirable, they said, are franchise restaurants, drive-throughs, anything that’s a “destination” for out-of-towners, and, of course, bars.

“The zones are small,” said resident Morris Kreitz, who attended all three meetings. “People (running a business) in a business zone are adjacent to or immediately across the street from one or more homes.”

The primary criteria, he said, should be a business’ “compatibility” with its neighbors, including closing early and not increasing traffic, noise or “any kind of commotion.”

“The bottom line for me is any kind of commotion late at night,” he said. “A restaurant that looks like The Good Table does, a restaurant that serves alcohol as an adjunct to serving meals, as opposed to a facility where the primary focus is on serving alcohol and food is served as a secondary consideration.”

He suggested the town tighten up its definition of what a “restaurant” is.

Andrew Ingalls, a commercial real estate broker who has neighborhood business-zoned property on the market, said the demographics of Cape Elizabeth make it a challenge to find tenants or buyers.

“Cape Elizabeth, it’s at the end of the line,” he said. “The demographics of Cape Elizabeth won’t support a (franchise) business… The zones are so small. They’re going to be small businesses, mostly food-oriented.”

Residents said they would like to see better-enforced speed limits, possibly sidewalks, and places where young moms with strollers or dads with kids can go with their families.

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