Discussions Continue on Changes to Central Business District

The Planning Board reviewed the changes to the Central Business District (CBD) section of the Zoning Ordinance at its Feb. 4 meeting.

Planning Assistant Elizabeth Robidoux said the board has already had three workshops on the proposed changes and a subcommittee has met three or four times.

Member Randy Chase pointed out that in addressing the Central Business District, the board also needed to address the Traditional Business Overlay District, and Robidoux agreed to incorporate any changes into both.

Vice-Chair John O’Connor, who conducted the meeting in place of Chairman David Granese, brought members’ attention to the subsection on Permitted Uses and the definition of “transportation center” under those uses. Also a state representative, O’Connor noted that the Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Services are offering grants for the establishment of “charging stations” for all-electric vehicles.

“They are offering $15,000 per charging station,” O’Connor said.

Several towns are looking at changing their zoning to allow these stations, he said, and the Southeast Regional Planning Commission is putting together a map.

Robidoux pointed out that “electric charging stations” were already in the definition of “filling station” in the zoning ordinance, but O’Connor said filling stations are no longer allowed in the CBD.

Member Jim MacEachern said he’s seen the charging stations as he traveled, especially on major highways and in large rest areas. “It wouldn’t hurt to add them in,” he said. “People who are traveling need to get where they’re going.”

Up to four vehicles can be charged from a light pole, MacEachern said, and Council representative Michael Fairbanks suggested putting one in the Municipal Center parking lot for added revenue.

Robidoux agreed to add the charging stations to the permitted uses.

MacEachern wanted more substance to the definition of “light manufacturing” for the CBD. A microbrewery could be an appropriate use in the area, but if it expands into a full-scale operation, “we’re opening ourselves up” for trouble, he said.

Alternate member Lori Davison observed that the small lots and density in the downtown area “control the growth. A manufacturing facility would not find the space it needed,” she said.

“What about a potter?” Davison asked.

“That’s retail,” MacEachern countered.

MacEachern warned the board, “We need to state exactly what we want. We tend to be inclusive because we’re afraid of being exclusive.”

With the current definition, “I could start a printed circuit board business and bring it downtown,” MacEachern said.

O’Connor agreed that the definition was vague and member Randy Chase said, “if it’s listed in the definition it’s got to be allowed.”