Pete Chabot stands on the edge of his driveway on his New Gloucester property, where he plans to build two homes, including one for his retired mom. But his plans may be undermined if the Legislature rolls back or delays the implementation of L.D. 2003.  Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Pete Chabot has ambitious plans for his 3.2-acre lot in New Gloucester – unless Maine lawmakers roll back landmark legislation aimed at increasing home construction and helping to end a crippling housing crisis.

Chabot, 45, has been saving up, working tons of overtime as a precision machine operator, so he can build two cabins on his wooded property – one for him and his adult daughter, to replace their mobile home, and the other for his retired mother and stepfather, so they can move back from Colorado.

Sweeping legislation enacted last year and set to take effect July 1 would help Chabot reach his goal. One aspect of L.D. 2003 makes accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, legal statewide, including detached units that currently aren’t allowed under New Gloucester’s building standards for in-law apartments.

But the new law is getting strong pushback from municipalities large and small, including New Gloucester. A legislative committee is considering several bills that would clarify or roll back certain aspects of the law, or delay compliance for two years. The thought of any holdup or backsliding makes Chabot angry.

“My fear is I won’t be able to build a house on my property for my mother,” Chabot said. “I bought my land. I pay my taxes. I’m all for zoning requirements, but I should be able to do what I want with my land.”

But people who want to undo or delay the new law say it isn’t ready for action and that the July 1 deadline is unrealistic – especially since the state Department of Economic and Community Development only this month issued final rules on how to amend or create local ordinances to comply.


Opponents grumble about nearly every aspect of the law, including that it essentially bans single-family zoning and eliminates parking requirements for ADUs. They say the law is confusing and worry about its impact on dozens of issues – lot sizes, water resources, sanitation, shoreland zoning, short-term rentals, quality of life, on-street parking, traffic, public services, municipal staffing, property taxes and local “home rule” autonomy.


Several related bills are in play before the Joint Select Committee on Housing, including L.D. 665, which would extend the deadline to July 1, 2025, and L.D. 214, which would limit application of the new law to municipalities with more than 10,000 residents.

“Part of the problem has been trying to dissect the zoning ordinances of every town and trying to make the mandates of the legislation fit,” said Lee Jay Feldman, director of land-use planning for the Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission.

Approved a year ago with strong support from Democrats and a handful of Republicans, the law is based on recommendations from the Commission to Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine.

In addition to legalizing ADUs statewide, it requires municipalities to allow two to four units per house lot, under certain circumstances. It also creates an automatic density bonus that allows affordable-housing developers to build 2.5 times the number of units allowed under local zoning.


Objections persist even as the Mills administration and other supporters have tried to address questions and criticism by issuing formal rules, written guidance and proposed amendments meant to clarify or plug holes in the law.

They say it doesn’t infringe on existing shoreland or water resource protections and it allows municipalities to regulate residential growth, short-term rentals and the maximum size of ADUs. It also allows cities and towns to determine how much land is required for each home that’s not an ADU, giving communities a way to still control multi-family development.

Despite these assurances, Feldman says the law needs more work and municipalities need at least one more year to come into compliance.

“We really need that time, especially since a number of amendments have been proposed that could affect how we address town ordinances,” he said.


Supporters of L.D. 2003 agree it needs improvement, but they argue that a two-year delay is too long when housing experts estimate that Maine needs 22,500 affordable units now.


Haggling between committee meetings has been intense, with more bills added this month and rumors circulating that a six-month or one-year delay is possible.

State Rep. Marc Malon, D-Biddeford, is sponsoring L.D. 1706, a package of technical fixes that would clarify several aspects of the law related to affordable housing developments and ADUs.

Malon said he doesn’t support the proposed two-year delay, especially for municipalities that have planning and other staff who regularly write and amend zoning regulations and building codes. And he believes every community should do its part to increase housing production, no matter how small.

“But I’m open to the idea that some smaller, more rural communities might need to be treated differently,” Malon said. “We can’t afford to have a wholesale two-year delay, but I want us to be able to do this in a way that makes sense. This is a statewide problem. It requires a statewide solution.”

Some cities and towns are preparing to comply, including Biddeford, South Portland, Cumberland and Cape Elizabeth, where residents defeated an affordable housing project last year.

“We’re not too far out of compliance and we’re prepared to move forward quickly if the July 1 deadline remains firm,” said Greg Mitchell, Biddeford’s planning director.


The Cumberland Town Council earlier this year called for “aggressive implementation” of the law at the recommendation of a local housing task force. The South Portland City Council is on track to consider proposed ordinance amendments on June 6 and have them in place by July 1. And on Tuesday, the Cape Elizabeth Planning Board will review proposed zoning changes that have already made it through 12 public hearings.

Other communities are calling for a delay, including New Gloucester, Westbrook, Saco and Portland, Maine’s largest city and the epicenter of the state’s housing crisis.

“While Portland land-use code already complies with or exceeds many of the new mandates, there are discrepancies that need to be reconciled prior to full implementation,” Portland Mayor Kate Snyder said in written testimony to the committee.

Donald Libby, a member of New Gloucester’s Planning and Land Management boards, said the town is trying to reconcile the mandates of the new law with its comprehensive plan, which includes efforts to increase housing in growth areas and protect water resources.

“Like many small towns in Maine, we are struggling with the implementation of L.D. 2003,” Libby said, including the lack of parking for ADUs, which requires town officials to find ways to ensure continued “safe passage and snow removal on our small rural roads.”

Jennie Poulin Franceschi, Westbrook’s planning director, said municipalities with smaller staffs need time to seek state grants available under the law and hire consultants to amend their ordinances.


“It will take several months to get through public hearings with (municipal) boards,” she said. The July 1 compliance deadline is “not feasible, especially when you factor in the time it took to pull together the rulemaking documents.”

Some communities, including Caratunk, a remote and sprawling Somerset County town with just 81 residents, have indicated that they may never be willing or able to comply with the law.

Elizabeth Caruso, chair of Caratunk’s Board of Selectmen, testified in favor of extending the compliance date to July 1, 2025; and limiting the new law to municipalities with more than 10,000 residents. Of Maine’s 530 municipalities, only 22 have more than 10,000 residents, according to a legislative analyst.

“We submit that changes must be made to the affordable housing law to meet the reality of small, rural Maine towns which have minimal municipal services, limited residential areas, roads, staffs, budgets and rugged topography,” Caruso told the committee. “We ask that local control be reinstated and that small towns be exempted because not all laws can be one-size-fits-all.”


Supporters of the law say it was never designed to be one-size-fits-all, and that home rule isn’t in jeopardy.


B.J. McCollister, policy director for the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, said the law paves the way for people to have “the ultimate local control, which is the local control of their own property and build an ADU on their own land.”

Whatever happens with L.D. 2003, Pete Chabot is ready to build his dream home in New Gloucester.

Pete Chabot stands on a plank pathway he built on a low spot on his property in New Gloucester that leads to his neighbor’s home. To the left are orange markers where he plans to build two homes, including one for his retired mom. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

He bought a kit last week from Houston-based Arched Cabins LLC. He paid $25,000 for the steel-beamed, barn-shaped shell and plans to outfit the interior himself.

“I never spent so much money at once in my whole life,” Chabot said. “I want to start building by July 1 to make sure I finish this construction season.”

His cabin will have a 24-by-30 footprint with two floors, three bedrooms and 1,320 square feet of living space. He plans to give away his mobile home to someone who needs housing.

A year from now, Chabot would like to start building a smaller, one-bedroom cabin on his property for his mother and stepfather. Whether he will be able to do that remains to be seen.

Under current town zoning, he would need a total of 4 acres – 2 acres per dwelling, or about four football fields – to put a second house on his property, he said.

But it would be OK as a detached ADU under the new law, and he doesn’t see why anyone would want to stop him from taking care of his mom.

“It would allow my mom to stay independent,” he said, “and I’d be right next door if she needs me.”

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