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Council approves town-center village green design standards

The Town Council on Feb. 8, 2016 approved amendments to the zoning ordinance that set standards for a village green in the town center.

village green design exampleVillage Green design example from appoved ordinance amendments

Following a public hearing, councilors approved standards for a village green that include a minimum size of 20,000 square feet, with a width and depth of at least 100 feet and at least 100 feet of frontage on Ocean House Road.

The amendment allows a developer to include in his or her development a green fronting Ocean House Road to serve as a community gathering place, one of the goals of the 2007 comprehensive plan and the 2014 town center plan. The green would be designed as a park, green or square, permanently preserved as groomed open space with legal public access, and given in fee to the town of Cape Elizabeth.

Without the amendment, setback requirements would prevent a green from being developed between the road and a building.

One speaker at the public hearing said however she believed the amendment could distract from the setback uniformity created by existing town center standards. "The Town Council did a really nice job in adopting the design requirements that create more of a village feel along route 77 by having the buildings in the front and the parking in the back," said Angell Point Road resident Anne Carney. "For example we can see the effect of the ordinance in buildings like the little deli near the High School, it does really create and establish a warm feeling in the middle of our town." She also said she believed the standards did not give the town enough control. "Whatever development happens is going to be with our community for a really long time and we should just make sure that we get what we want out of this ordinance," Carney said.

Planning Board Chair Peter Curry, who also spoke at the hearing, said developments that include a village green would be subject to the board's site-plan approval, taking into account the size, depth and road frontage of any green proposal. "We think this gives the town the best chance to come up with a first-class, visibly nice village green in the center of town," he said. He thanked Carney for her comments about setback uniformity, but said he did not see the amendments as disruptive. "It is a facilitative move that let's us adjust that front yard requirement to take into account the village green - the village green in essence becomes a front yard servicing the people of the town of Cape Elizabeth," Curry said.

Councilors voted 6-1 to approve the village green zoning amendments, with Councilor Sara Lennon opposed. An alternate proposal setting standards for village greens on any town-center property, not just on Ocean House Road, was not considered by the council on Feb. 8.