Short-term rental registry, airport zoning, upper Belfast Bay usage among topics for Belfast City Council

Mon, 09/04/2023 - 8:30am

    BELFAST — The Belfast City Council will hold its regularly scheduled public meeting Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m., to consider a short-term rental registry, airport zoning, and how best to use the upper end of Belfast Harbor, beyond Armistice and Route 1 bridges, among other topics.

    The first agenda item is a request from City Manager Erin Herbig to authorize her to negotiate a contract for the purchase of the former Waldo County Superior Court buidling from Waldo County. The building is at 137 Church Street and has not served as an active courthouse since the opening of the Waldo County Judicial Center, on Market Street.

    According to Herbig’s premeeting agenda, Waldo County is seeking to relocate the remaining services in the old Superior Court building to other county-owned buildings. 

    If the city acquires the building, Herbig said the City would use the facility as a future home for city services, in addition to City Hall. 

    There is a request for the Council to adopt the commitment of property taxes and set the mil rate for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. 

    The FY23-24 City of Belfast budget, passed by the City in July, includes:

    Municipal expense budget $13,424,516

    TIF $519,004

    Less projected revenue $8,256,401

    Net municipal budget $5,687,119


    RSU #71 education $10,285,132

    Waldo County $1,713,737

    Amount to raise through taxation $17,685,988


    The current mil rate is .02140, according to Herbig’s report. Murphy Appraisal Services and the Assessing Department reportedly calculated three scenarios that are all below the current rate: .0201, .0202, and .0203. 

    Murphy Appraisal Services staff will attend the meeting to answer any questions. 

    Belfast’s Harbor Master Kathy Given is requesting approval to hire a consultant to assist her with the Bridge and River Harbor Management Plan.

    The idea for the management plan was proposed several years ago, according to Herbig’s report. The report would concern the bridge and river harbor areas of Belfast Harbor. The areas mentioned are tidal and according to the report, have not been looked at for ways in which the City can best manage this part of the harbor for the future. 

    “The Bridge Harbor of Belfast is defined as the area bounded on the south by the northerly face of the Armistice Bridge, commonly known as the footbridge, and on the north by the northerly face of the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge. The River Harbor is defined as the area bounded on the south by the northerly face of the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, and on the north at the Head of Tide,” according to Herbig’s report.

    The area has restricted access at low water and a narrow channel, with most of the usage coming from small rowing vessels and small motorized fishing vessels. Public acces to the area is also made more difficult due to the steep banks and long mudflats. 

    City staff received an estimate to complete the management plan from the Musson Group, which has worked with the City since 2016. The Musson Group has given an estimated cost of $40,000 to $50,000 to prepare a management plan in the above mentioned areas. The Harbor Advisory Committee has reportedly reviewed the proposal and feel that the estimate is appropriate. 

    If the request is approved, the Harbor Master is recommending a motion to authorize up to $45,000 to hire the Musson Group to assist the City with the Bridge and Harbor Management Plan.

    Funding will be taken from the Harbor Department ENK Fund. The current balance of the account is $177,246. 

    Given will be at the meeting to answer any questions. 

    A presentation on the proposed ordinance amendments regarding a short-term rental registry is also on the agenda.

    The proposed amendment came after the Council asked city staff to look into all avenues to address the housing shortage Belfast is facing. A short-term rental registry was determined to be a good first step of a larger strategy aimed at increasing housing opportunities within the bypass. 

    Following the presentation, there will be a public hearing on the proposed ordinance amendments regarding a short-term rental registry. 

    Additional information about the amendment is available in Herbig’s full premeeting report

    Following the public hearing, there will be a discussion and Council action on the proposal to create a short-term rental registry. At this time, the Council can discuss, amend, table, or approve the second reading of the proposed amended ordinance. 

    If the proposal is approved by the Council, City Planner Jon Boynton reportedly recommends a motion to approve the second reading and adopt the proposed ordinance amendments to Chapter 14, Business, Chapter 66 General Provisions, and the creation of Chapter 72, Housing, and Lodging, regarding a short-term rental registry as presented. 

    Planner Boynton and Director of Code and Planning Bub Fournier will attend the meeting to answer any questions. 

    Also on the agenda is a presentation on the proposed ordinance amendments regarding the airport overlay zoning.

    According to Herbig’s report, the airport overlay concept as proposed in the airport master plan is a planning tool for development in proximity to Belfast Municipal Airport’s northwestern runway 15 and southeastern runway 33.

    The proposed concept reportedly involves three-dimensional zones A and C, and outlines building height and use standards for each zone so that airport operations and development on nearby properties occur in a safe and concurrent manner, while minimizing potential conflicts, the report states. 

    By right-sizing zoning restrictions on properties adjacent to Belfast’s airport, the proposed ordinance amendments make an additional 60-acres available for housing development. 

    Following the presentation on the proposed ordinance, a public hearing will take place, followed by discussion and Council action regarding the matter. This may include discussing, amending, tabling, or approving the second reading of the proposed amended ordinance. 

    For additional details regarding the possible airport amendments, or to view the complete agenda, see City Manager Herbig’s premeeting report. 

    Erica Thoms can be reached at