The Long Range Planning Committee’s proposed Windham Center and Village Residential districts are represented by WC and VR on a zoning map. Screenshot / Town of Windham

 

The Windham Planning Board, agreeing with concerns about the town losing its rural character, made changes Monday in two proposed zoning districts designed to accommodate future growth.

The board sent the revised proposal back to the Town Council for review.

The districts, Windham Center and Village Residential, would have incorporated existing farm and commercial districts from River Road on the west past Route 202 on the east and be divided by the Pleasant River. Instead, the Planning Board decided to limit Windham Center and Village Residential to Route 202 and River Road respectively, excluding many rural parts originally included in the zones.

The Planning Board also included putting a 1,000-square-foot limit on businesses in the two districts. The Windham Center district would allow banks, restaurants and theaters, for example, while artist studios and childcare facilities are among the types of businesses that would be allowed in Village Residential.

Sidewalks in the districts proposed as optional were made mandatory, out of regard for pedestrians. Drive-thru facilities, a proposed use in Windham Center, were also scratched from the list of possible uses due to traffic concerns. Board member Marge Govoni said because the proposal called the districts “walkable,” sidewalks would have to be required for safety on roads with high vehicle speeds and that drive-thrus would create too much traffic backup.

The districts were designed by the Long Range Planning Committee as advised by  the town’s 2017 comprehensive plan update, Planning Director Amanda Lessard said.

The Planning Board’s changes came after a public comment period when board members sided with residents who said the proposals went too far.

“This is one of the only areas (of Windham) that hasn’t been touched by large-scale development,” former Town Councilor Clayton Haskell said, expressing skepticism of the plans.

“I don’t want to see this turn into North Windham,” said resident David Clarke.

Sharon Emerson who lives on Windham Center Road, said she moved from Portland to Windham to get away from development.

“I don’t think this is a place for banks, and theaters and restaurants,” she said.

Govoni said she wanted “more of a neighborhood feel and not a commercial feel” in the new districts and called the Long Range Planning Committee’s proposal “overzealous.”

Board member Richard Yost said he was supportive of new districts with reservations.

“If we don’t allow for growth, well-financed developers are going to buy farms,” he said, but “the area (proposed) is too big”.

Board member Kaitlyn Tuttle agreed the the size of the proposed districts should be restricted and said, “Growth is happening, it’s just a matter of where we’re going to put it,” she said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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