After years of getting inquiries from tourists about affordable lodging in Cape Elizabeth, Carl Dittrich came up with the idea of renting out rooms in his Ocean House Road home to tourists.

Upon discovering bed and breakfasts are not zoned in that area of town, Dittrich went to the Cape Elizabeth Town Council to ask that the zoning ordinances be amended. Currently, the center of town is the only area zoned for bed and breakfasts, though there are none.

That was in winter of 2007. The Town Council requested the Planning Board draft amendments, which have been in the works over the last four months.

“It’s so minor that people wouldn’t even know. There would just be another car in the driveway,” said Dittrich, who also operates an antique business from his home.

Barbara Schenkel, chairwoman of the Planning Board, said the board has received e-mails from neighbors voicing opinions on the proposed amendments, which are listed on the town Web site, www.capeelizabeth.com.

“Some people have written and said ‘We really like this idea,’ and others have written that they really hate it,” said Schenkel.

A public hearing is scheduled for May 20, which is intended to give the Planning Board a better idea of how to move forward with the amendments, if at all.

As it stands, there are two proposals. One is for a “homestay,” which is like a bed and breakfast on a smaller scale, meant to provide lodging in one or two furnished rooms. This would apply to Dittrich. The other is for a more standard bed and breakfast, allowing for up to six furnished rooms in one home. Both proposals include on-site parking, as well as meals.

Under the proposed ordinance, bed and breakfasts would be permitted only on arterial roads, such as Route 77, and collector roads, which lead into arterial roads.

Schenkel was careful to point out that these lodging amendments are only proposals, far from becoming official. If the Planning Board did approve the zoning amendments, the issue would go back to the Town Council for further approval.

Fern Orr, who lives across the street from Dittrich, his wife, Ann, and their sons, said she is leery of ordinance amendments that would allow for new businesses in the neighborhood she has lived in for 51 years.

“I’m concerned about change. We’re 80 years old. It’s just always been such a lovely, quiet little neighborhood, and it’s changing,” slhe said.

Orr said the presence of a small homestay would not be so bad. But she is concerned that the business could grow. So is her husband, Andrew.

He said he has noticed one or two small cabins on Dittrich’s property, which he believes could be used as additional lodging.

“To my mind, any change in zoning would have to be very specific. I wouldn’t want it to grow to renting out cabins,” he said.

Dittrich, however, insists that the cabins would not be used for lodging, and that only rooms in the main house would be rented. In fact, the only advertising Dittrich said he would use, if the amendments pass, is a small sign, attached to the same post as his antique business sign out front.

“I would say there is no way it would grow. We only have a three or four bedroom house,” said Dittrich.

It would, however, provide a couple more options for lodging in Cape Elizabeth. Despite being the home to Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth’s only hotel is the Inn By The Sea, which offers accommodations starting at about $299 a night during the summer months. Dittrich said he would offer rooms at $50 per night during the off season, and $100 per night during the summer months.

Christine Morgan, another of Dittrich’s neighbors, said that more lodging is “a great idea,” as long as it is regulated.

“We certainly need business here in Cape Elizabeth, but within limitations,” said Morgan.

“I think we need to make a decision as to how the ordinance is going to read.”

Carl Dittrich and his wife Ann hope to change the zoning ordinances in Cape Elizabeth, so they can rent out one or two rooms in their home to visitors during the Summer months. The planning board as drafted proposed amendments to the current laws, and a public hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 20.Neighbors split on zoning changes allowing B&BsNeighbors split on zoning changes allowing B&Bs