What is Zoning and what does it mean to me?
Zoning is a use of municipal power to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. This tool was originally developed in the 1920’s to separate incompatible uses, such as homes and industrial factories, but over time zoning has evolved into a much more complex and nuanced tool to regulate land use. Everyone should care about the zoning ordinance and other land use ordinances, including site plan and subdivision, because they prescribe what is allowed on your property and on your neighbor’s property.
Why are these ordinances being revised now?
The City’s land use ordinances have not been comprehensively updated since 1985. Since then, the ordinances have been updated in a piecemeal fashion over time and become fragmented, inconsistent, and challenging to read and interpret. Most of the proposed revisions are organizational and structural in nature, rather than substantive in nature. The proposed document is nearly half the length of the current ordinances and they are much more logical and digestible to read.
How does this update influence what I can do on my property?
Chances are, this update does not substantially change what you can do on your property. However, it is possible that some dimensional standards and uses may have changed. Please see the proposed dimensional standards table and use table in the proposed ordinance. If you have more specific questions about a particular property, please reach out to the Planning & Development Department for more information.
How do I look up the new zone of my property?
The quickest way to look up the new zone of your property is to zoom in on the proposed zoning map, available here. The proposed Zoning Ordinance includes Table 3-1 that explains how previous districts have been consolidated, and each district now has a district purpose and summary sheet to help explain district location, purpose and dimensional details. If you have any questions about the future zone of your property, please reach out to the Planning & Development Department.
Why is this process moving so fast?
Actually, this process began over two years ago. On February 20, 2018, the City Council voted to adopt the 2018 update of Saco’s Comprehensive Plan. The 2018 Comp Plan update was the result of nearly two years of review and discussion by the ad-hoc committee and City Staff. The community’s next step was to update the Zoning Ordinances to align with the City’s land use vision: The most forward-thinking land use policies in the State of Maine that ensure financial stability, environmental sustainability, and provides opportunities and accessibility to all.
The City Council formed the Zoning Ordinance Revision Steering Committee on October 15, 2018. After a competitive RFP process in Fall 2018, the City contracted with planning consultants TZM Planning and EF | Design & Planning, LLC to update Saco’s Zoning Ordinance. In January 2019, the City and the consultants initiated an online survey of Saco’s residents and property owners, soliciting input on zoning-related topics that warrant further discussion by stakeholders. A total of 1,088 people participated in the survey. A public charrette was held on February 7 at the People’s Choice Credit Union, where over 70 people participated.
Based on the public input, feedback, and direction from the Steering Committee, City Council, Planning Board, Historic Preservation Commission, Conservation Commission, other City boards and committees, and City Staff from all departments, Draft 2 of the land use ordinances were completed late August 2019. The ZOR Steering Committee and the Planning Board held individual work sessions and a joint work session, to review the Draft 2 documents. The City Council held a workshop on September 9, 2019. The City also hosted two public forums on September 10th and September 11th. About a dozen residents attended each open-house style meeting and provided valuable input. Feedback from these forums and City boards and committees was compiled and integrated into a final draft that is now scheduled for a formal public hearing and adoption process with the Planning Board and City Council.
What is changing in the downtown?
The geography of the proposed Downtown District combines two current zoning districts: B-3 and MU-1 in the downtown. The uses allowed in these two districts have remained largely the same as before and will continue to permit single-family and two-family dwellings of any height. The minimum lot area for the Downtown District will be 2,000 sf. This is consistent with the current MU-1 district, and a slight decrease for the B-3 portion, which currently requires a minimum lot area of 3,750. The maximum height for the Downtown District is proposed to be 60 ft (this represents no change from the MU-1 district, and an increase of 10ft from the B-3 district). Additionally, for buildings other than single-family and two-family dwellings, there will be a minimum height requirement of 35ft to help promote a more vibrant, mixed-use downtown corridor. The parking standards in this area and across the City are not changing currently. For comparison, the current dimensional standards table is available here, and the proposed table is here.
What is changing to the Historic Preservation District?
Most of the changes in the Historic Preservation chapter of the Zoning Ordinance were non-substantive and simply make the section easier to read and interpret. The few substantive changes include: Only allowing vinyl siding on buildings that currently have vinyl sidings, encouraging the preservation of historic wooden window sashes where feasible, and guarding against the careless repointing of historic masonry.
How are parking and signage standards changing?
During this extensive process, there were a number of topics where we were not able to gain a clear consensus on how to move forward, or where we felt that the topic was so extensive that it deserved more focused attention than was possible during the course of these broad, largely organizational ordinance changes. Both parking and signage fall into these categories. The proposed parking standards have not changed from the current standards, but we have flagged this item for a future amendment. The same is true with signage, with a few small exceptions to help clean up some glaring concerns in the current ordinance. Other topics which are not changing in the proposed ordinance and are flagged for subsequent amendments include: Shoreland zoning, impact fees, tiny homes, private streets, and developing a technical standards guidebook.
What is a Contract Zone and how will this update impact them?
A contract zone is an agreement between the City and private parties that permits nonconforming land uses or buildings in specific locations. This is a tool commonly used in land use planning to allow for unforeseen uses and development that are consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Since 1985, Saco has adopted 50 contract zones, which is more than any other city or town in the state. The proposed ordinance revisions will not directly impact contract zones, however the revised standards are more consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan so this update should reduce the need for future contract zones. Also, after the ordinances are adopted, City Staff will work with property owners in active contract zones to find opportunities to dissolve some of these districts where possible based on the revised standards.
What is a Cluster Subdivision?
A cluster subdivision is a residential development designed to allow for greater density on a property in exchange for creating and preserving open space and retaining the natural characteristics of the land. As proposed, cluster subdivisions will be allowed on parcels larger than 10 acres west of I-95. For more details, see section 713 in the proposed Subdivision Ordinance.
What is Shoreland Zoning and how have these regulations changed?
Shoreland Zoning is a set of regulations mandated by the State and adopted locally to protect wetland, rivers, streams, tidal areas, and other waterbodies. Shoreland Zoning regulations have not been changed as a part of this revision. The only change regarding Shoreland Zoning was an administrative mapping change to convert all the Shoreland Zones to overlay districts, but at this time none of the boundaries or standards for Shoreland Zoning are being changed. Staff is recommending a subsequent amendment to the ordinance to update the City’s standards to follow the latest state requirements. This review will consider the Resource Protection Overlay, Shoreland Zoning Overlay, and Coastal Development Overlay Districts.
Why aren't single family homes allowed in the Portland Road District?
The decision of whether to allow for single-family dwellings in the Portland Road District was very carefully weighed and considered. The ZOR steering committee and residents expressed their desire to maintain this corridor for commercial and industrial growth, while also allowing pockets of human-scaled, mixed-use density (see question below about the Portland Road Node District for more information on that topic). The public and the boards and committees involved in this process were concerned about the impacts of large-scale residential subdivisions on traffic and community character.
Staff and board/committee members also heard from several residents currently living in a single-family home in this district that they really enjoyed living there and had hoped to give their children and other family members a parcel for their home in the future. To accommodate these competing needs and desires for the corridor, the Planning Board directed staff to draft a conditional use proposal allowing limited single-family dwellings in the corridor under certain circumstances. It is expected that this change will be included in the Planning Board’s report to the City Council on October 29th.
What happened to the Portland Road Node?
The Portland Road Node was originally proposed to allow for pockets of human scaled, mixed-use development along the Route 1 corridor. This concept was endorsed by the public and the Zoning Ordinance Steering Committee; however, consensus could not be reached on size and location(s) of this proposed new district. In order to allow for this concept to be allowed without prescribing a specific location for it along the corridor, provisions for a Master Planned Development throughout the Portland Road District were included in the Proposed Site Plan Ordinance. These proposed revisions were drafted based on the City’s current master planned development standards. For more details, see Article VIII in the proposed Site Plan Ordinance.
How do these changes impact the Kinney Shores community?
The zoning district in Kinney Shores, currently R-1c, is being renamed Seaside Residential (RC), and there have been some minor changes to the dimensional requirements this area. New lots connected to the sewer system are still required to be 7,500 square feet. Lots connected to individual septic systems are proposed to be 20,000 square feet rather than the currently required 40,000 square feet. A second dwelling unit on the property would require an additional 5,000 square feet of land, rather than the currently required 7,500 square feet per dwelling unit. Additionally, the minimum side and rear yard setback has been reduced from 15 ft to 10 ft. This change was made to better match the zoning to the current conditions in the neighborhood. Portions of property located in the Shoreland Zoning Overlay Districts must also comply with provisions of Article 8.