HALLOWELL — Proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinance include consolidating residential categories, expanding the downtown district toward Second Street and adding a business zone at the southern end of Water Street.

Hallowell officials will answer questions and solicit feedback on the plan at a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the City Hall auditorium.

After the hearing, the Planning Board may suggest changes before sending the ordinance back to the City Council, which approved it on an initial vote and will vote again on Monday, Sept. 10.

The proposed changes are intended to bring Hallowell’s zoning ordinance in line with the comprehensive plan update approved by the council in October 2010 to guide land use decisions.

In creating visions for downtown and the in-town neighborhoods, the business district along the Maine Turnpike and the rural area west of the turnpike, the comprehensive plan committee decided that development should mostly follow existing patterns.

“I don’t think there’s a huge amount of controversy with this, because the comprehensive planning process involved a lot of community input, and they didn’t make any major changes to Hallowell,” City Manager Michael Starn said about the zoning changes.

Existing buildings and businesses will be grandfathered in, but the changes will affect property owners who want to build expansions or change the use of a property, for example.

Code Enforcement Officer Maureen Aucoin said several people have contacted her to ask what the changes would mean for them, but she has not heard any complaints.

One of the proposed changes would reduce the number of residential districts from five to three. The categories regulate details such as lot size and setbacks, and there wasn’t enough distinction between the districts to justify having five of them, Aucoin said.

The proposal also expands the downtown zone slightly, encompassing more properties along the eastern side of Second Street. Some of the properties do not meet the requirements of the residential district they’re now in, and this would bring them into compliance, Aucoin said.

One of the goals of the comprehensive plan is to maintain “gateways” on Water Street where Hallowell borders Augusta to the north and Farmingdale to the south.

The updated zoning ordinance would convert the southern gateway from residential to business, allowing single-family homes and duplexes along with business uses such as professional offices, financial institutions and personal services. Conditional uses could include motels, restaurants and stores up to 5,000 square feet.

Jennifer Trafton, whose street, Hunter Lane, backs up to the section of Water Street that would be rezoned, said she doesn’t know much about the proposal and hopes it won’t change the character of the area.

“I like it being residential,” she said.

Marguerite Ogden, who rents a home on Maple Street just off Water Street, said more business development wouldn’t bother her as long as it’s in keeping with the small businesses already in the area.

“Having those things there doesn’t impact me at all,” Ogden said. “They’re just there, and they’re not glaring, neon. It’s not a McDonald’s or a big-box store.”

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