Bath zoning proposal is being modified

Published 7:05 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

By Staff
Density restrictioncontinues to remainas bone of contention
Staff Writer
BATH — Proposed new zoning regulations for Bath’s business districts were sent back to the town’s staff Monday night after town officials offered some refinements to those rules.
Bath’s Board of Commissioners and Planning Board, meeting together at a workshop, worked to ease regulations proposed by the Planning Board. The plan had received a volley of criticism at a public hearing earlier this month.
After the workshop, the boards received public comments as part of the Planning Board’s regular meeting.
Chesson and others are against a proposed restriction limiting the development in the historic-business district, also called B-1, to four units per acre.
Developer John Baldwin said he believes the proposed restriction is specifically aimed at him. Baldwin has proposed a development project that includes seven units on a tract that is smaller than the 1.75 acres the four-units-per-acre standard would require.
Bath resident Claudia Alligood also believes the restriction would unfairly target the developer.
During the workshop, town officials expressed differing opinions on the restrictions.
But others argued the restriction would limit traffic, which could be a public-safety concern, among other benefits of the proposed rules.
Officials were working from a simplified proposal the town’s staff had created based on a proposal passed by the Planning Board.
The town’s lawyer, Wayland J. Sermons Jr., along with Town Administrator Bubs Carson and Eddy Davis with the Mid-East Commission, combined similar items to shorten the proposal and worked to make the language easier to interpret and more likely to stand up in court.
Planning Board member Karen Sayer argued for restrictions on the sizes of businesses like grocery stores in the town’s historic-business district. Sermons said those and similar commercial operations would be limited by a combination of small lot sizes and town regulations for things like parking and septic systems.
He also said the Bath Historic Board would decide if any proposed development in the historic-business district is appropriate.
Sayer said she hasn’t always been happy with that board’s decisions.
The town’s staff recommended allowing restaurants but restricting seating and banning drive-throughs to keep fast-food establishments out of the town’s Historic District.
Staff also suggested moving day care facilities from the town’s historic-business district to its other business district.
State regulations, such as those requiring playgrounds, make it hard for day care facilities to set up in the tiny historic-business district, he said.
In-home day care operations would still be allowed.
The Planning Board decided to require a conditional-use permit for government administrative offices, tourism and administrative facilities related to historic sites and churches and graveyards in the historic-business district.
The boards’ members agreed that one apartment should be allowed over shops that have historically had them.
Sermons panned a proposal by Planning Board member Dr. Ira Hardy to shift responsibility for town sidewalks to property owners.
Sermons said such a plan would be fine in Manhattan, one of New York City’s five boroughs — where Hardy said the system is in use — but in Bath it would lead to business owners getting sued when people fell on the sidewalks.