2014-03-14 / Community

Selectmen OK parking amendment

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The planning board presented a final draft of the proposed amendment to the zoning article regarding off-street parking standards to the board of selectmen on Monday night.

The board of selectmen approved the amended ordinance that includes adding the Lower Village business district back into the zoning district. In the business district, the town permits a reduction in the number of required parking spaces for first-floor restaurants or retail stores.

Said Town Planner Judy Bernstein at the March 10 meeting, “We continue to allow but put caps on the number of parking spaces that may be waived when a use is located with 1,000-foot radius of a public parking lot or a public on-street parking.”

The planning board has been reworking the off-street standards for the better part of a year.

While lower village businesses have desired standards such as these for years, according to Jeff Bonney, chairman of the Lower Village Committee, the planning board’s efforts were further fueled by the failure of a referendum vote last June regarding the installment of a municipal lot on Western Avenue.

“As everyone knows, we’ve been working on this for some time now,” Bernstein said. “These are the zoning standards for how many parking spaces you need when you start a new business or open or add to a business in the town, and you’re coming through plan review or a building permit application, you need to show how many parking spaces you’re providing.

“We have had a chart in our ordinance for years that lists all of the various uses that are likely to be reviewed in the town, and how many parking spaces they must show as part of their plan for the use. And we have amended the standards, primarily (because) the revision that we had put in there several years back to provide a substantial waiver of parking for uses in the three downtown areas, as it applied to the lower village district ... was going to force the committee and the town to revisit whether it was working OK down in the lower village area.”

The planning board has been working on this “because we want to add Lower Village business back into the areas that get a pretty good waiver if you’re doing a retail use there or a restaurant (in a first-floor space) ... we want to encourage those uses to continue to locate in each of our downtown areas, including Lower Village business,” Bernstein said.

The planning board has worked with the Lower Village Committee and businesses throughout the reviewing and amending process.

“The Lower Village has been getting to review this as frequently as we’ve rewritten it so that they are on board with what’s going on,” Bernstein said. “They certainly have had recommendations in how we deal with certain things in here.”

The amended off-street zoning ordinances, among other things, set a limit on “how many spaces could just be ... waived for new businesses that are retail and restaurant uses,” Bernstein said.

A chart detailing which committee or town official will review a particular parking application was also added to the amended zoning ordinance.

“We set an overall limit ... on the number of spaces which may be reduced or waived by all the provisions in the ordinance,” Bernstein said. The limit was set after residents expressed concern over “some fairly large waivers that were provided to brand new uses in lower village.”

Said Al Searles, selectman chairman, “If someone were to create a private parking lot, is that covered by the standards that are in here?”

With the current standards, said Planning Board Chairman Chris MacClinchy, ”Parking can only be an accessory use, it can’t be a primary use on a lot, so somebody can’t just come in and have a parking lot on a vacant lot. There has to be some other building on the lot ... that doesn’t get changed by this draft at all.”

“If you have a paved lot and someone takes up more space than they should and there aren’t any lines to delineate where the parking spaces are, how do you maintain an adequate number of parking spaces?” asked Selectman John Kotsonis.

For unpaved parking areas, Bernstein said, there would be discussion beforehand about how the particular spots would be delineated. “It’s part of the review process, ... it’s to their benefit as much as anyone to delineate that parking so people know how to get in and out,” Bernstein said. “If you’re not going to pave, you still have to show how you’re going to get your 9-by-18 spaces.”

Said Selectman Dick Morin, “We really have no guarantee that there won’t be a car that parks in the middle of any parking space. It’s really just allocation of spaces, right? Unless you have somebody there watching it, you have no idea how they function. It could be a moving van that parks across two or three of them.”

Planning board member Robert Metcalf agreed that even if parking is clearly marked, it doesn’t always mean people will obey.

“As someone said, ‘Well, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t necessarily make it drink,’” Metcalf said. “That is the same thing I’ve found with parking.”

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