The Cape Elizabeth Planning Board will take its time reviewing a controversial zoning change that would allow businesses like Rudy’s of the Cape to expand.

The proposed change would reduce the required setback for businesses in the town’s Business A zone from 250 feet from wetlands to only 100 feet from wetlands. Most, if not all, of the town’s businesses currently do not comply with the 250-foot setback and thus cannot make significant changes to either their physical structures or the services they offer.

The issue came to the attention of the Town Council and Planning Board several months ago, when Rudy’s of the Cape owner Mary Page obtained a state liquor license and installed a small bar in her eatery, convenience store and deli on Route 77.

Residents, fearing a bar crowd would disrupt their lives, cried foul, while Page asked councilors to consider a zoning amendment that would allow her to expand her store.

Page and other Cape business owners say the restrictions make it virtually impossible for them to adapt and stay financially viable.

But the Planning Board declined to expedite consideration of the wetlands setbacks at its May 20 meeting. Board members said they want to overhaul the zoning restrictions of the Business A zones, including setbacks, at one time.

The board is currently reviewing the Business A zone restrictions to bring them into accordance with the town’s comprehensive plan. The board took extensive public comment last month from residents who wanted to see local businesses that serve their immediate neighborhood, but wouldn’t draw in outsiders from South Portland or farther afield.

The board is currently waiting for a $3,200 survey by Topsham-based Stantec, formerly Woodlot Solutions, that would delineate where exactly the affected wetlands are located.

Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said she expects the Planning Board to be discussing the zoning “overhaul” at “every workshop between now and September.”


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