ROCKPORT — Town meeting in Rockport on Aug. 18 will not only be historic, but significant, as citizens are being asked several weighty questions that will influence development and parking regulations in town, and especially in the Village.
One land use ordinance amendment also calls for striking language that outlines criteria used for upgrading public ways, such as waiving portions of the design guidelines to preserve neighborhood character and holding neighborhood workshops to explain projects. It also removes language to notify abutters of the municipal project.
Watch the Planning Board public hearing on the multiple zoning ordinance changes for strong debate about the proposed changes.
The citizenry is also being asked to choose two Select Board candidates from a field of three.
Rockport’s 33-article warrant includes two citizen-petitioned articles, land use ordinance and business articles, a nonbinding referendum asking voters if they support a ban on the use of Consumer Fireworks in the Town of Rockport, and a $6.4 million municipal budget.
This year, because of the pandemic, there will be no gathering at the Rockport Opera House, which is the conventional town meeting practice.
Voters, instead, will be casting their ballots on the municipal warrant in the voting booth in the Brenda Richardson Room at the Town Office, or via absentee ballot.
As of Aug. 13, the Town Clerk’s office has received 425 requests for absentee ballots.
All absentee ballots must be returned to the town office by 8 p.m., Aug. 18.
On the warrant
This year, the Rockport Town Meeting Warrant has two citizen initiatives, both the result of a proposal to build a 22-room hotel on Central Street in Rockport.
Petitions to place the questions on the ballot circulated earlier this year, and the resulting questions were placed as Article 3 and 4 on the warrant.
The articles call for, respectively, new parking rules that call for traffic studies and limits on hotel rooms in the downtown zoning district.
In a letter to the editor, proponents of the petitions said: “Article 3 requires an independent traffic study by a qualified professional paid for by the developer, not Rockport taxpayers. We believe that our elected and appointed volunteer officials should rely on objective data, not the developer’s opinion or their own personal opinions in making decisions that impact the greater good of Rockport citizens, like the adequacy of public parking and motorist, pedestrian and cyclist safety.”
They also said Article 4: “would limit hotels in the downtown district to 20 rooms. This includes the developer’s planned hotel on Central Street overlooking the harbor, and is based on the size the developer originally proposed.”
Opponents, including the Rockport Select Board (who also wrote a letter to the editor), have said: “What Article 4 would do is retroactively reduce the size of the Planning Board approved hotel from 26 rooms to 20. The developer would be free to simply make those 20 rooms bigger without changing the overall size of the hotel. Why is it worth enacting an ordinance to reduce the hotel by 6 rooms?”
They read as follows:
The other land use ordinance amendments that Rockport voters will consider on the Aug. 18 warrant include:
Article 5: Shall an Ordinance amending the Town of Rockport Land Use Ordinance in Chapter 300 to revise Definitions be enacted?
This amendment changes and expands the language associated with definitions of day care centers, parking lots, footprint, hazard tree and storm damaged tree.
Article 6: Shall an Ordinance entitled, “Ordinance amending the Town of Rockport Land Use Ordinance in Section 800 to revise the following: Requirements for Parking, Traffic Circulation, Access and Street Design standards to revise the following subsections 803.1, 803.2, 803.3, and 803.4” be enacted?
This amendment changes the wording of the performance standards governing traffic circulation, access and street design standards.
It adds language to provide for off-street parking for all new construction and changes of use. It also changes the language governing off-street parking standards, and reduces, in many zones and purposes, the need for parking spaces. It also allows for shared parking, parking options, and CEO or Planning Board conditions.
It removes the Planning Board discretion to increase or decrease parking requirements.
The amendment also removes criteria used for upgrading public ways, such as waiving portions of the design guidelines to preserve neighborhood character and holding neighborhood workshops to explain projects.
Article 7: Shall an Ordinance entitled, “Ordinance amending the Town of Rockport Land Use Ordinance in Section 800 to revise the following: Subsection 801.7 Lighting to clarify that freestanding light fixtures cannot exceed a height of 25 feet, and Subsection 811 Home Occupations to allow day care centers with 12 children or fewer to be considered a home occupation” be enacted?
This amendment changes the performance standards so that freestanding light fixtures shall not extends higher than 25 feet; and that changes the home occupation standards to allow for day care centers serving 12 or fewer children be considered a home occupation.
Article 8: Shall an Ordinance amending the Town of Rockport Land Use Ordinance in Section 900 Zoning Districts Performance Standards to revise subsection 908 B General Dimensional Requirements and to revise subsection 910 Traditional Village District, parking standards for offices and retail uses, and to revise Section 907.3 Special District Standards to revise the setback requirements for private sport facilities be enacted?
This amendment changes the minimum lot density in certain zones for dwellings. For example, in District 907, the minimum lot size for. two-family dwelling with sewer is reduced from 20,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet.
It also increases the parking space requirement in the Village so that for offices and retail, one parking space is required for each 400 square feet of gross floor space, instead of 300 square feet.
Article 9: Shall an Ordinance amending the Town of Rockport Land Use Ordinance in Section 1000 Performance Standards to revise the following subsection 1001 Applicability and Purpose and subsection 1004 Parking Lot Design and landscaping be enacted?
This amendment proposes stripping the existing language governing standards and landscaping for parking lot design.
Article 10: Shall an Ordinance amending the Town of Rockport Land Use Ordinance in Section 1302 to revise the requirements for a site review pre-application and to allow the Planning Board to require an applicant to perform additional studies be enacted?
This amendment replaces the word “shall” with “may” request for a pre-application meeting with the Planning Board prior to a formal submission of a site plan.
Article 11: Shall an Ordinance amending the Town of Rockport Land Use Ordinance in Chapter 1400 Shoreland Zoning Overlay District to conform to the current State of Maine Model Shoreland Zoning Ordinance and to repeal the existing Chapter 1400 Shoreland Zoning Overlay District be enacted?
The state periodically updates its mandated shoreland zoning ordinance and the Town of Rockport has not updated its own version. There were many changes, including the clearing of vegetation and storm damage, so easiest action was repealing Rockport’s and inserting the state’s version.
Article 12: Shall an Ordinance to adopt a revised Town of Rockport Zoning Map dated 2020 to replace the existing 2013 Zoning Map be enacted?
The new map is to reflect the following changes:
Article 13: Shall an Ordinance amending the Town of Rockport Land Use Ordinance, making minor corrections and clarifications throughout be enacted?
This change edits all references to special exceptions to become conditional use.
All applicable references stating that the Board of Appeals shall issue a special exception shall be changed to the Planning Board shall issue a Conditional Use.
Conditional zoning is the process by which the municipal legislative body may rezone property to permit the use of that property subject to conditions not generally applicable to other properties similarly zoned.
Article 14: Shall an Ordinance amending the Town of Rockport Floodplain Management Ordinance in Section P 2.b. (3) to revise the requirements for a breakaway wall be enacted?
This amendment changes the dimensions of the breakaway walls for floodplain management so that it does not require construction to enclose less than 300 square fee of area.
Article 15: Non-binding referendum. Do you support a ban on the use of Consumer Fireworks in the Town of Rockport?
This is a non-binding question from the Select Board seeking citizenry opinion only. If supported, the Town will draft an ordinance banning the use of Consumer Fireworks for the next election. If not supported, the Town will remain under current state laws that allow the use of Consumer Fireworks.
Articles 16 through 24 pertain to the proposed budget.
Articles 25 through 36 represent annual municipal business items, including setting the interest rate for nonpayment of property taxes and wastewater bills at 8 percent.
Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at firstname.lastname@example.org; 207-706-6657