Developers may now take aim at a protected deer herd area in Gorham for more housing with reduced lot sizes.

The Gorham Town Council on Tuesday rezoned land in the vicinity between South Street and Brackett Road from “rural” and “suburban residential” to “urban expansion.” The area includes a large portion of the state’s 3,600-acre Narragansett Game Sanctuary where hunting is prohibited.

The sanctuary was established 95 years ago on private land that was then mostly farms, but the state has no development restrictions on the preserve.

The council voted 5-2, with Vice Chairperson James Hager and Councilor Virginia Wilder Cross opposed, to make the switch to conform with the town’s Comprehensive Plan that was approved in 2016.

Town Council Chairperson Lee Pratt said Wednesday the rezoning will take effect in 30 days.

The rezoning allows increased housing density. In an urban expansion zone, the allowable size of a lot with a private septic system is 40,000 square feet, as opposed to the larger 60,000 square feet required in a suburban residential zone.


The area is not served by public water or sewer.

Opponents of the change have cited concerns that include the impact on the environment, wildlife impacts and home wells. Hager said he was worried about the aquifer’s water supply for all residents and increased traffic on Day, McLellan and Brackett roads.

A letter on Sept. 28 to town councilors from Kathleen Ashley, Roger Brown and Donna Cassidy, all of Day Road, said a citizens’ petition with 160 names combined with comments in public hearings this year “clearly show that the residents want habitat-friendly neighborhoods, not just for themselves but for the entire town.”

The letter also said, “Recently disclosed memos of Oct. 28 and Nov. 9, 2016, to the Town of Gorham from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (MDIFW) experts strongly recommended that the town needed to do substantial investigation of its natural resources before development took place.”

Ashley said in an email to the American Journal after Tuesday’s vote that she hopes the board will start a new Comprehensive Plan so that issues about preservation and natural resources “could be dealt with seriously.”

Pratt said the council intends to  have the Comprehensive Plan Committee “revisit this zone to see what can be done to address the natural resource issues. In doing so, it will bring back recommendations to the council.”

The council’s action Tuesday followed the postponement of a decision after a September public hearing. Rezoning also included an area in the vicinity of New Portland and Lowell roads from rural to suburban residential.

In August, Gorham Planning Board in a 2-2 deadlock failed to recommend rezoning the two areas, and the proposal returned to the council for action.

The state’s Narragansett Game Sanctuary where hunting is prohibited in Gorham.


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