2015-06-12 / In the Know

Town considers changes to zoning ordinance

By Karen Martin Special to the Leader

Interest in food production is at an all-time high in this country. Consumers want to know where their food is grown and how it gets to market, whether it’s the local restaurant or grocery store.

The Portland region, including the town of Scarborough is no different. In fact, interest in the entire cluster of food production businesses in our region is so intense that it is emerging as a high growth economic sector.

In this article we look at the changing dynamics of the industry in our region and preview some proposed changes to the zoning ordinance that will be presented to the Town Council in June for their consideration.

With market demand for production space on the rise, the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO) and the town of Scarborough’s Planning Department began reviewing how such businesses were addressed in the current zoning ordinance.

Working with the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC), we considered demand, current examples of food production businesses, zoning requirements in other communities and compatibility with existing commercial zones in Scarborough.

In the current ordinance, food production is relegated to the industrial zone. Whether you are a small jam maker, a craft brewer or a large bottling plant, it’s off to the industrial zones for you. Because of Scarborough’s great logistics, industrial land is at a premium in Scarborough and our vacancy rates tend to be some of the lowest in the state.

If you need small spaces for food production tasks, there’s little opportunity.

Aside from the fact that we are tight on industrial space, our research determined that food production is an evolving industry. Many are small facilities.

Few, if any, have the negative impacts of food processing from past generations.

Many such companies want to locate in areas where customers can “sample” the products.

Craft beer brewers often have tasting rooms and desire to be located in areas similar to restaurants.

In addition to small food producers, we also considered other types of small processing of goods, such as jewelry making, clothing designers and art studios.

These types of uses, if the production is the majority of the space, would also be relegated to the industrial zone under current zoning.

In looking at examples from around the region, the LRPC determined that a small footprint of handcrafted processors could be accommodated within other commercial zones as long as they met performance standards with respect to impacts on surrounding businesses and residents.

In June we will present, for the Town Council’s consideration, updates to the zoning ordinance reflecting this new approach to smaller processors

We will also present amendments to the Haigis Parkway Zone regarding larger processors.

The amendments, if passed, will allow larger food processors on a portion of the Haigis Parkway, as long as they meet strict performance standards. Such facilities will be subject to the same design standards as the rest of the Haigis Parkway Zones.

These proposals will be presented at the June 17 Town Council meeting.

The specific proposals can be viewed on the Town’s website in the planning section.

Should you have any comments or concerns, contact Karen Martin of SEDCO, kmartin@sedcomanine.com, 883-4893 or Dan Bacon, planning director, dbacon@ci.scarborough.me.us, 730-4041.

Karen Martin is executive director for SEDCO.

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