Kennebunk is looking at ways to implement provisions of the new state law designed to promote affordable housing. Courtesy photo

KENNEBUNK – The Kennebunk Planning Board may ask the town meeting in June to implement some preliminary measures to help the community comply with Maine’s new affordable housing law called L.D. 2003, with a view to a fuller examination of  the measures and further tweaking of the town’s zoning laws at a later date.

Currently the rulemaking accompanying the new law that impacts municipalities is expected to be forthcoming from the state later this spring.

“An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Commission to Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions,” referred to as LD 2003, was signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills on April 27, and poised to go into effect July 1. According to a guide produced by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the new law is designed to remove what the legislature saw as unnecessary regulatory barriers to housing production in Maine, while preserving local ability to create land use plans and protect sensitive environmental resources.

It allows for additional density for affordable housing developments in certain areas; requires that municipalities allow between two and four housing units per lot, where housing is permitted, depending on circumstances; and requires municipalities allow accessory dwelling units on the same lot as a single-family home under certain conditions.

The planning board talked about the measures at a Jan. 30 workshop. They hope to have an overview of the proposed zoning ordinance  changes by the middle of this month, with a possible public hearing on March 13 in advance of the June town meeting.

Planner Brittany Howard noted Kennebunk currently allows accessory dwelling units in most, but not all zones where housing is permitted. She said the coastal residential zone does not currently allow them, and there are legal questions to be answered on resource protection zones and the Branch Brook aquifer zone.


The new law also addresses density, with Howard noting the town’s ordinance would need updating. She said the zoning ordinance would have to be amended to allow affordable housing developments in growth areas.

While the new state law requires a minimum of 190 square feet for an accessory dwelling unit, it does not set a maximum size. Kennebunk’s current zoning has no minimum but has a maximum of 650 feet. Later in the two-hour discussion, the board indicated that 40 percent of the size of the current primary dwelling unit or a maximum of 800 square feet might be considered as the maximum. Any accessory dwelling units would have to comply with setback requirements and other local rules.

The state has left it to municipalities to decide if they want to prohibit accessory dwelling units from becoming short-term rentals.

“How does that help our housing stock,” if accessory dwelling units are allowed to become short-term rental units, planning board member Richard Smith asked.

Smith also asked that if an accessory dwelling unit is supposed to be part of the solution for affordable housing, how the town could ensure it would not be rented at market rate.

“You can’t,” said planning board member Robert Metcalf.


Planning board member Daniel Kiley urged caution.

“I think we have to plan for a worst-case scenario,” said Kiley. “This is a very broad topic that is going to be scrutinized by developers and investors down to the smallest detail. We can’t just look at accessory dwelling units and say that is one solution. accessory dwelling units will  have an impact on city services, transportation, the school district … it becomes a much bigger topic of conversation when just looking at these as individual elements. If you’re out in a rural district and all of a sudden have multifamily homes and condo units on tracts of land we thought would be more rural … I just think we have to be cautious on how we approach that.”

Early in the discussion, Town Engineer and Community Development Director Chris Osterrieder said his department has asked for funds  in the upcoming budget for a housing needs analysis.

“I think it’s difficult to ask you to forecast the future without knowing what the challenges are and what some of the changes are,” said Osterrieder.

He said that each community will have to figure out how to make the new law work.

Member Janice Vance pointed out that in a couple of cases, an older home was torn down to make way for a subdivision.” I’m concerned how this affects the character of the town,” she said.


One member of the audience, resident Wayne Berry, expressed dismay at what he heard.

“Honestly I’m a little embarrassed … for the town of Kennebunk to listen to the negative comments coming out of this board about how to prevent any of this from happening and not learning to adapt to it,” said Berry. He said the rulemaking was expected to be finished in late March. “I wish you would just have a bit more of an open mind about this bill; I wish you would look at this as an opportunity.”

Metcalf said he was sorry that Berry felt the board was being negative. “I’m taking this from a planning standpoint for us to get something in place that will work, and we can meet some of the affordable housing that our previous density bonuses haven’t accomplished,” said Metcalf.

He said the board really should have been looking at the law months ago but that there was information from the state that is not yet available. “I agree we need to find a way to make it more affordable for people to stay in this town,” said Metcalf.

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