GARDINER — A proposed update to the city’s long-term plan cleared the first hurdles Thursday night on its way to consideration by the City Council.
Following a public hearing held at City Hall, the Comprehensive Plan Committee and the Planning Board both unanimously approved sending the plan to the council to review, probably sometime in June.
The roughly 200-page document, largely dealing with zoning and planning issues, includes background and an overview of the city, community goals, policy suggestions and implementation strategies. The plan’s two overarching goals are to expand the city’s tax base and to enhance Gardiner’s desirability as a place to live, work and visit.
“This is the result of two years of work from hundreds of people in the community,” said Patricia Hart, chairwoman of the committee and a city councilor, at the start of the public hearing.
The city collected input from community members as part of a two-year community outreach project funded by a $100,000 grant from the Orton Family Foundation.
Communities’ zoning and ordinances are supposed to match their comprehensive plans, but none of the zoning or policy changes included in the plan will go into effect immediately after the plan is approved. The city still must go through the processes necessary to making any of the suggested changes.
The plan would be used to guide the decisions and the direction of city officials and community members for the next decade. Gardiner last updated its plan in 1997.
The joint meeting of the committee and the Planning Board was a second chance for residents to comment on the document in its mostly current form. The committee previously held a public hearing in March to give people a chance to comment and ask questions about a draft of the plan.
The City Council still needs to hold a public hearing before it votes on the plan and, if the proposal passes, eventually sends it to the state for approval.
The one change approved at the meeting was enlarging the footprint of the planned industrial commercial zone outside of the Libby Hill Business Park to allow one of the park’s businesses, E.J. Prescott, Inc., to expand into two new lots.
Nate Rudy, director of economic and community development for the city, said the company is unable to expand in other directions in the park, and he recommended that the committee and board include the requested change in the plan.
“This is the kind of corporate neighbor I would like to have all around Gardiner,” Rudy said of the company.
One of the major zoning changes suggested by the plan is creating a mixed-use zone to transition better from the industrial, commercial nature of outer Brunswick Avenue to the residential neighborhoods farther north, toward the downtown. The zone, between the Gardiner Armory area and the four-way intersection with Old Brunswick Road, would be similar to the planned development zone now covering most of that area. However, commercial uses such as retail, service and light manufacturing would be limited to a maximum of 10,000 square feet per use.
The plan also encourages the design of development in that zone to be more similar to the character of residential areas.
Some policy changes recommended by the plan are already moving forward. Last week a city committee approved a zoning policy to allow businesses and developers to convert some larger and older buildings in residential neighborhoods to commercial uses.
The change would allow some commercial uses in industrial or institutional buildings, such as former churches or schools, in the high-density residential zone. The Planning Board is scheduled to review the proposal Tuesday.
The board also will review a change that would allow homeowners to rent out part of their houses for service-type commercial uses, similar to the current home-occupation ordinance.
A draft of the plan has been available for public viewing on the city’s website and in person at City Hall and the Gardiner Public Library for more than a month.