FALMOUTH — Saying they’ve heard the concerns of residents, town councilors voted unanimously May 29 to roll back some zoning changes enacted three years ago.

Councilors said while they had a lot of respect and appreciation for the work that went into the new zoning, it was clear that the new rules were causing harm.

With the vote, the Town Council also made the rollback in the Residential A districts retroactive to May 3, and made two-unit and multifamily units a conditional use that requires an extra layer of review.

Also at last week’s meeting, the council amended the master plan for the Tidewater development to allow construction of 38 one- and two-bedroom apartments, along with another restaurant or grocery store.

At its May 7 meeting the Planning Board recommended against the change to the master plan, but last week councilors said the proposal represents the type of smart growth they want to see.

Councilor Hope Cahan said the proposal by Tidewater developer Nathan Bateman “is a great model for how we can develop well and how we can do smart growth.”

Councilor Amy Kuhn agreed, saying for her, the amendment to the Tidewater plan “checks all the boxes” in terms of smart growth and also “avoids some of the downsides” of new residential development.

Both Cahan and Council Chairman Caleb Hemphill said they regretted the “misunderstanding” by the Planning Board and Hemphill said “this is a plan we should embrace.”

Zoning

The council’s zoning action returns the dimensional standards to what they were prior to the July 2016 zoning amendments.

It’s been more than a year since nearly 900 residents signed a petition designed to force a repeal of the 2016 zoning changes. Councilors said last week that residents may have been frustrated with the pace of their deliberations, but they’ve actually moved fairly quickly.

Outgoing Councilor Claudia King said last week that it became clear to her that “RA was in real distress” and a rollback was the best way to “get back to a level place.”

Cahan said for her the rollback was all about protecting “neighborhood integrity,” and Kuhn said it was clear the 2016 rezoning was “hurting our sense of quality of place.” She said a rollback was the “best way to the level the playing field and get a fresh start.”

Outgoing Councilor Aaron Svedlow warned, however, that because “Falmouth is on the doorstep of Portland and is such a desirable place to live” growth issues the town is facing “is a problem that’s not going away.”

In other business last week, the council also approved a resolution that calls on it to improve communications with the public and to re-evaluate and improve how future land use policies are developed.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.


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