The Anglers Road Townhouse Apartments are currently underway in Windham. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

WINDHAM — Town councilors appear open to finding a short-term solution to over-development while they continue to explore long-term options.

During discussion at a special meeting Jan. 9,  councilors also appeared to allay concerns of the Long Range Planning Committee, which had been frustrated by a lack of clear direction and feedback from the council.

Residents have recently been concerned about over-development, including the impacts on taxes, schools, roads, water bodies, open space and the town’s rural character. The number of permits for residences between 2018 and 2019 increased by 40%, and 75.6% of the building permits issued in 2019 were for sites in subdivisions. Windham has been considering a variety of ways to address growth, including impact fees and rezoning.

Town councilors, residents and members of the town’s Long Range Planning Committee met to set goals for the town’s future.

“We recognize that we really need to be doing something. We need to come at it from many different angles,” said Planning Director Amanda Lessard. 

“We’re never going to be able to get full control of growth, but the word I think about is shape,” said Town Council Chairman Jarrod Maxfield. “We’re doing our best we can to shape it where we want.”

Councilors discussed a few different solutions, including rules limiting development in accordance with the town’s 2017 Comprehensive Plan, various types of subdivisions and a cap on the number of building permits issued each year.

Maxfield, Town Council Vice Chairman Tim Nangle and Councilors Dave Nadeau and David Douglass supported a growth management ordinance as a short-term solution.

I would have to know what the plan is, what’s short-term,” Councilor Nick Kalogerakis said. “I can’t say yes or no. But I’ll say yes, research it. But I can’t say I’d vote for it. I’m very guarded because I don’t have enough information.”

Councilors Rebecca Cummings and Clayton Haskell were absent from the meeting. 

None of the five councilors present supported instituting a moratorium on building permits, nor did they want to make major adjustments to the town’s zoning map.

I’m really pleased to see we’re having this discussion,” said resident Karen Lougee, who was a founding member of a concerned citizens group aimed at curbing growth. “We’ve been coming for about two years, and this is the first time I’ve really felt we’re getting somewhere.”

I think the answer is to allow more growth in the desired areas and less growth in the areas that you don’t want it,” said Long Range Planning Committee member Allan Phinney. 

Kalogerakis, who is also a member of the committee, said that the committee’s work was not useful because the council did not give enough clear feedback or guidance.

We need more communication to this committee. They’re frustrated. I don’t know how much longer it’s going to hold the group together. It’s very, very frustrating,” he said. 

The council requested that the committee adjust the lot sizes for both conservation subdivisions and country estate subdivisions and further explore the growth management ordinance.

Maxfield said the council will soon discuss road standards as a way to control growth, while permitting and fees will be a topic at the council’s Jan. 21 meeting.

LRPC member Michael Duffy said at the meeting’s conclusion that he found it to be very helpful: “I think we got some good direction. It is one of those, in my opinion, no-win situations for anybody. And I think that we’re on our way.” 

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