The Town Council is in its first exemption review process since adopting an updated Growth Management Ordinance (GMO) in 2021. The GMO is a very specific tool to manage the pace of development within our community and has been used in Scarborough for over 20 years. It regulates how much of the allowable growth in an area can occur in a single year. As housing has become more diverse with multi-family vs single family in recent years, it became increasingly difficult to track permit counts based on definitions in the 2001 GMO. The Town Council updated the Ordinance last year to improve the regulation and ensure fairness in allocation.

The updated Ordinance also contains various exemptions from the requirements, which would allow developers additional permits beyond the limits if approved by the Town Council. An exemption could be permitted if the unit is located within the Town’s designated growth areas, is part of a mixed-use or multi-family development, or promotes the general welfare of the residents of Scarborough, is in the public interest and will have beneficial impacts on the Town as a whole.

The Downs has requested an exemption to gain additional permits over and above the annual allocation, and the process is front and center for the council over the next couple of months. I hope to get as much resident involvement and input as possible during the public process for this exemption request. As Councilor, I hear two opposing views — that of the residents concerned about the amount of growth, and that of the developer who has the understanding that all had agreed to the number of new homes. The recent community-wide survey results clearly indicate that growth is a concern for a majority of residents. The developer invested time, effort and money in the development of the Downs. Hence the challenge of a fair and balanced decision on my part. How do I find a balance in these two opposing views? This is where I need your help. I truly would like to hear your thoughts on how to balance the competing interests before the final vote.

There has been much coverage lately about the size and scope of the development project — that it is the largest such development in the State’s history (The Downs plans to develop 1,800 to 2,000 new homes on the property over a 20-year period). Despite recent coverage, this is not part of the exemption review process. These agreements and policy decisions were established several years ago before my time as Councilor, and it is referenced in the Comprehensive Plan, the Credit Enhancement Agreement, as well as the Downtown Revitalization plan adopted by the Town Council in 2018. Our GMO is used to manage the pace of growth, not total growth within the community. It cannot, on its own, determine how much ultimate growth is allowed in an area of town.

The initial Town Council workshop was held on July 13 and can be watched on the Town of Scarborough Public Meetings YouTube channel. At the workshop the council reviewed the latest request for exemption for the very first time as a group. We had approximately 20 residents attend the meeting and half expressed their views during the meeting public comment.

The next meeting will be held on Sept. 7 where the council will offer their input and suggestions on changes to the submitted request. The public is encouraged to attend and contribute. We also plan on holding a ‘Council Corner Live’ session time TBD to discuss the ‘Public Benefit’ component of the Ordinance exemption process. What is a ‘Public Benefit’? We want to hear from our residents.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Scarborough Town Council.

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