AUGUSTA — As city officials are considering whether to relax zoning standards for the Riggs Brook Village district, the Augusta Planning Board has approved a couple’s proposal to put a mobile home there.

George and Rachel Jones had long planned to put a retirement home on a 3 1/2-acre lot in the district that will be deeded to them by family.

George Jones told the Planning Board on Tuesday his family had been preparing the lot for about two decades, including building a road.

When George Jones found it would cost $200,000 to have a home constructed on the site, he and Rachel Jones instead opted to have a mobile home placed on a concrete slab there. In addition to the construction cost, George Jones said there is extensive ledge on the property that would make it difficult to build a foundation for a traditional home.

But the couple’s plans hit a roadblock when they learned zoning standards for the Riggs Brook Village district were more restrictive than in other parts of Augusta. One of those standards prohibits mobile homes from being installed in that zoning district.

“This is a home, a beautiful home, all certified by the state of Maine. It’s made for us. It’s what we want,” George Jones said during the Planning Board’s Zoom meeting. “This is something that me, my wife and our family have been working on for years.”

Jones and city officials said mobile homes are now built to set standards. Jones also noted his mobile home will be built in Maine and be able to withstand Maine winters.

“I think this piece of property looks fairly unique, and that’s one reason I feel fairly comfortable approving this,” said Cathy Cobb, a member of the Planning Board. “I can’t see any other use for this property.

“(George Jones) said there was ledge there, which is a contributing factor to the type of house he’d like to have up there. If this is the only way to develop the property because of the ledge, I think he should have the opportunity to use it.”

Board members voted unanimously to approve a contract zone with the Joneses, allowing them to put their mobile home at their planned site. They also waived another requirement of the zoning district, that all electric lines to properties there be placed underground.

The couple’s property will be about 1,400 feet from the road, officials noted, so no one other than the couple and visitors to their home will even see the mobile home. Nor will anyone see any electrical equipment, other than one pole where their private road will meet the public Church Hill Road.

Some officials said the city ought to reconsider treating mobile homes differently than those built on site. The city’s zoning ordinance currently allows single-family residences in multiple zones where mobile homes are not OK’d.

City Planner Betsy Poulin said a workshop could be held to discuss the issue and whether mobile and modular homes need be listed as distinct land uses.

Planning Board member Delaine Nye said the city regulates mobile homes differently than stick-built houses for a reason.

“Typically, they don’t hold up over time as well as a stick-built home, in my opinion,” Nye said, adding city officials “took the time to review areas of the city where a mobile home is more properly placed.”

“They were restricted to those areas for good reason,” Nye said.

Among the reasons she cited were mobile homes tend to decline in value as they age and they can have a negative impact on property values for neighboring traditional homes.

Nye expressed concern the city could be setting precedent by allowing a mobile home in the Riggs Brook Village district, but voted in favor of the proposal, saying she was doing so with reservations.

The contract zoning agreement will still need City Council approval. The pact could go to the City Council for discussion at its Jan. 28 meeting, Poulin said.

The Riggs Brook Village zoning district was created in 2001 in anticipation of a wave of development following the installation of the Cushnoc Crossing Bridge across the Kennebec River. At that time, officials established stricter zoning standards there to encourage high-end, quality development and protect the rural vistas on the Route 3 gateway into Augusta.

But that development never came, officials believe, because of a lack of public sewer and water lines in the area. So in 2014, the city lightened the restrictions, hoping to spur development.

This year, city councilors have asked whether additional changes could be considered.

Poulin said Tuesday potential developers have expressed concern about required building setbacks of 80 feet from the road, that electrical connections be underground and limits on parking between buildings and the road.

David Smith, chairman of the Planning Board when the Riggs Brook Village project came to Augusta, said it could use some minor improvement, but urged the board not to abandon the city’s hopes for the district.

He said those who created the standards wanted to avoid sprawl, protect the rural vistas, prevent excessive development and commercial signs and encourage the concept of a village being developed within the city.

Smith said the district worked as planned, noting a few businesses have been built there and complied with the standards. He said the area is not blighting and “arriving from the east on Route 3 is visually pleasant.”

The Planning Board expects to continue discussing potential changes at upcoming meetings.

Nye cautioned the board about making significant changes until the city’s recently revised comprehensive plan is approved, to avoid adopting anything that would conflict with the goals in that document.

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