SCARBOROUGH — The town council is interested in modifying Scarborough’s Growth Management Ordinance, which could potentially change the way developers can build in town.

Councilors held a workshop on March 17 to discuss what types of changes they may support in the ordinance. These included the possible elimination of fractionalization of units and the reserve pool.

Adopted in 2001, the ordinance was created to manage a pace of growth in town, using a set amount of growth permits, establishing a new limit on dwellings per year, said Councilor Ken Johnson. The number of new growth permits per year was originally 135.

In the last five years, Scarborough has seen over 1,300 new dwellings, he said. In 2007, the town updated the ordinance for fractioned units and over the years the reserve pool has changed to add more units than the initial number.

In the town’s newsletter, Ken Johnson explained how fractionalization of permits has impacted the number.

“The GMO was amended periodically to accommodate these trends while continuing to maintain the 135 annual growth permit limit,” he said in the newsletter. “Instead of ‘one permit per dwelling,’ the concept of fractionalization was introduced. This allowed for single-bedroom dwellings to only require half of one permit (.5), and 2-bedroom units less than 1,200 square feet to require three-quarters of one permit (.75). The rationale for fractionalization was that these types of dwellings demanded fewer municipal services and resources than a single-family home.”

During the workshop, Ken Johnson said he favored restoring the ordinance to make one permit equivalent to one dwelling unit.

There was general council support of removing fractionalization from the ordinance.

Another “reasonable step” for the council to consider is to make sure building permits are tied to growth permits, Councilor Jonathan Anderson said.

“I’m supportive of removing fractionalization and just trying to make it easier to understand how we’re distributing these so that we have a way to really do good comparisons,” he said.

Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina said she felt the town should hire a consultant to assist with changes to the ordinance.

Councilors also discussed whether or not they felt the market should dictate growth.

If the council does change the ordinance in order to “simplify it,” there needs to be perfect policies, said Council Chair Paul Johnson.

“It appears there’s a strong consensus to eliminate fractionalization,” he said. “Well, with that, that complicates things because now we have to really come up with what is you know, particularly our multi-unit growth strategy, and how is that going to happen?”

He said there was evidence that the ordinance is working currently.

Councilors also discussed the possibility of removing the reserve pool and creating another system to allocate permits.

There could be a yearly review of permits, Paul Johnson said.

This could be more complicated for the Town Council, however, said Town Manager Tom Hall.

Councilor Betsy Gleysteen and Ken Johnson said the initial intent of the ordinance, managing the pace of growth, was lost over the years.

Gleysteen was in favor of looking at growth permits per types of development, but Paul Johnson said the town’s attorney had warned against this idea.

“I think to Councilor (Ken) Johnson’s point, what this overlooked was one of the key factors, if not the key factor of the GMO, is really the pace,” Gleysteen said. “How can we sustain a pace without impacting services, without changing the character of our town? The town’s always going to change over time but the faster it changes, the more we’re not going to recognize it.”

The town should consider public input and a possible survey to see how residents want to see growth, she said.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: