A citizen referendum in North Yarmouth designed to curb growth was approved by town voters on Tuesday.

According to unofficial results posted on the town’s website, the growth cap passed by a vote of 731- 533.

The Special Citizens Initiative Referendum question asked North Yarmouth residents if they wanted to amend the town’s land use ordinance by capping building permits for residential dwelling units in the Village Center District and the Village Residential District at no more than 15 per year. The change will limit a single person, entity or corporation from applying for more than 6 new units per year.

Under the existing ordinance, there was no limit building permits for those districts. North Yarmouth already has a cap of 15 permits in the Farm and Forest District, the third and largest zoning district in town, meaning there will now be a limit of 30 permits a year townwide.

The citizens initiative vote puts North Yarmouth in the position of having to face two contradictory issues that many Maine towns soon may have to confront: a long-running concern over growth and how to control it, along with a more recent housing crunch that makes it hard for many Mainers to find, and afford, a place to live.

The lack of a cap on permits in two of North Yarmouth’s districts “has resulted in residential growth well beyond expectations,” Rich Parenteau, one of the leaders of the referendum drive, told the Press Herald in an interview earlier this month.

Without a cap, Parenteau said, growth has picked up, with 125 permits issued over the past three years. From 2008 to 2018, the town averaged just 16 permits a year.

Parenteau said town officials had hoped that the absence of a cap in the two village districts would lead to more commercial development in the center of town, but that “has been a failure” as developers scooped up the permits to build expensive homes.

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