North Yarmouth residents will weigh in at the polls next month on a proposal to cap the number of building permits allowed in and near the village center to 15 a year.

If approved March 15, the amendment to the land use ordinance would limit new housing units in the Village Center and Village Residential zones, where the town hall and fire company are located. No single applicant or developer could apply for more than six new permits annually, and as there is already a 15-permit cap in North Yarmouth’s Farm and Forest district, no more than 30 permits would be permitted townwide.

If residents vote down the measure, an unlimited number of building permits would still be allowed annually in the two village districts, as they have been since 2007. The current ordinance is in line with North Yarmouth’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan, which prioritized developing the village center.

Resident Rich Parenteau, who with four other residents wrote the citizens’ initiative referendum, said the town does not have the infrastructure needed to meet an increase in development.

“There is a huge demand for new homes all over Southern Maine. We think a cap is a way to tap the brakes here a little bit and get control, look to the future and what we can afford to do,” Parenteau said. “When you add this many homes, you’re also adding demand to town services.”

More homes in the area could mean an increase in traffic, which would be a concern for bicyclists and walkers in the area, and traffic congestion that would impact North Yarmouth’s “rural character,” Parenteau said.


An increase in the number of homes also means more school-aged children moving to town, which puts a strain on the school budget, he said.

Living Well in North Yarmouth committee member Diane Morrison, who is against the proposed permit cap, said any ramifications from an increase in students wouldn’t fall on North Yarmouth alone. Since North Yarmouth is part of SAD 51, which includes Cumberland, the town is impacted by growth in Cumberland as well, she said.

Between 2019 and 2021, 28 homes were built in the Village Residential district and 52 homes were built in the Village Center district.

Town Manager Diane Barnes and Select Board Chairperson Brian Sites both declined to comment on the proposed amendment. Neither Planning Board Chairperson Audrey Lones nor planning board members Sandra Falsey and Chris Cabot, who served on the 2018 comprehensive plan committee, responded to requests for comment before The Forecaster’s deadline.

Resident Linc Merrill collected about 400 signatures for the citizens’ petition in the fall. North Yarmouth has 3,692 registered voters, according to Town Clerk Debbie Allen Grover.

Merrill said the group of petitioners is optimistic the vote will pass.


Morrison said regardless of a cap on the number of permits allowed, development will continue, it will just sprawl into the Farm and Forest zoning district.

“Right now, services are all in the center of town, for the most part. EMTs, plowing, municipal services are all concentrated in that area. On a school bus level, they can pick most of the kids up in the center of town and not need to travel too far outside of that,” Morrison said.

The referendum question will cost the town about $5,000, according to Grover.

A public forum on the referendum will be held March 1 at Wescustogo Hall and Community Center at 120 Memorial Highway from 5-6 p.m. It will also be streamed live on Spectrum Channel 1301 and The polls will be open at the same location from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. March 15. The last day to request an absentee ballot is March 10.

“We’re not saying development is bad, ” Parenteau said. “We’re saying you have to control it. That’s what the building cap is intended to do.”

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