Planning Board Forwards Affordable Housing Amendments to Town Council

The Planning Board held a Public Hearing on April 20, 2021 on Town Center Affordable Housing Amendments.  The Town Council referred to the Planning Board amendments to the Town Center District which could enable a multi-family affordable housing project proposed by The Szanton Company [Article].  There were a total of six community members who provided comments during the Public Hearing; four in favor of supporting the proposed Szanton project and two opposed.  

Following the Public Hearing, the Planning Board deliberated between two amendment options.  

Option 1 includes four amendments requested by the developer, plus a revised multi use building definition and Planning Board flexibility on parking requirements.  The Town Center zone requirements are amended to accommodate affordable housing as follows: increase density; increase building footprint; increase building height (when located 200 feet from a public road right-of-way); remove the first floor non-residential use requirement (with complimentary definition revision); and allow the Planning Board to reduce off-street parking requirements.

Option 2 includes three of the four amendments requested by the developer, plus parking flexibility for the Planning Board.  This option does not remove the first floor non-residential use requirement, as established by the 2014 Town Center Plan.

Given the two options, a motion was made to move Option 1 to the Town Council for their consideration at the May 10 council meeting.  Board members voted four to two in favor of the motion.   Board member Jonathan Sahrbeck voted against the motion, but added that he would, "Be open to discussing it in exchange for the removal of another amendment -- particularly the amendment for a fourth floor."  Chair Jim Huebener voted in favor of the motion citing the decline in operating commercial spaces.  Board member Andrew Gilbert voted in favor of the motion, "Only because the property is set back and not street-facing."  Carol Ann Jordan, another board member who voted in favor of the motion, stated that, "In an ideal world, affordable housing in Cape Elizabeth would already have been in the books," and that she would like to see a more global approach to amending zoning ordinances that could ensure more affordable housing throughout town.  Mary Ann Lynch, the fourth member to vote in favor of the motion, agreed with Jordan by adding, "Cape Elizabeth's zoning is exclusionary."

Before the Town Council meets to discuss Option 1, the Planning Board unanimously agreed to craft a letter to the Town Council which would include recommendations gleaned from their review process.  The Planning Board will hold a workshop on May 4 to refine their recommendations.

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