SCARBOROUGH — In a 6-1 vote, the Town Council approved a replacement of the Scarborough Growth Management Ordinance, capping the number of allocated growth permits at 144 per year.

One of the biggest changes to the ordinance is the removal of fractionalization, requiring any units beyond the 144 allocated each calendar year to require council approval. In previous years, fractionalization has allowed for multiple units to exist under a single growth permit.

The council’s process on exemptions will be open to the public, with strict criteria that the developers or applicant must meet, said Councilor Ken Johnson.

Exemptions under the repealed ordinance include a maximum of 104 dwelling units within The Downs, to be repealed Dec 31, 2021, as well as a maximum of 70 multi-family units outside of the Downs, which will be repealed on Dec. 31, 2023.

The code enforcement officer is allowed to issue 48 building permits without growth permits, said Council Chair Paul Johnson. This is meant to address smaller land owners who were impacted by the town’s exhaustion of growth permits earlier this year.

The council will review the ordinance every two years, with the amendments bringing in language that connects the ordinance to the Scarborough Comprehensive Plan, Paul Johnson said.

These changes will allow the council to better control the town’s growth, knowing that growth will not stop entirely, Cloutier said.

“This allows us to smooth the curve, not stop it,” he said. “We’re not blunt-force stopping it right now, but it’s going to take council action to go over (the cap) again, and that was a compromise. We’re allowing some developers to continue right now when we know that prices are skyrocketing and there’s a ripe opportunity for it, but the tradeoff is a couple of years from now. A lot of these exemptions expire. So you’re going to be stuck with your annual average or you’re going to have to get specific approval otherwise.”

Nearly 1,200 units were permitted over the past four years, a fact that the council hopes to address with the new ordinance, said Councilor Don Hamill.

“Even opponents, folks who opposed this a couple of weeks ago, say that the proposed revised Growth Management Ordinance is better than the one in place, not perfect, not going to stop growth,” he said. “It will help us to flatten the curve. It will correct a number of things that delivered close to 1,200 units over the past three to four years. That’s the thing we’re trying to solve.”

Councilor Betsy Gleysteen was the sole opposing vote. Her motion to postpone the ordinance amendments before the final vote did not receive council approval.

Residents who gave public comments were critical of the council’s lack of transparency regarding the ordinance changes as well as concerned with the pace of growth in Scarborough.

Elizabeth Von Stade, resident, said the council needs to study the impacts of the ordinance.

“You really have not brought the public along,” she said. “If you can help us understand why growing this fast is supposed to be a good thing, that would be really helpful.”

Jeremy Wintersteen, a seasonal resident, said he believes the revised comprehensive plan should have come before the passage of the new Growth Management Ordinance.

“I just believe Scarborough is growing way too fast and I hope that you will listen to the input you’ve received and incorporate that into whatever decision you make,” he said.

Scarborough’s town website now includes a page with information about the Growth Management Ordinance, scarboroughmaine.org/government/town-council/growth-management-ordinance. This includes an archive of previous committee and council meetings relating to the subject.

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