2018-01-26 / Front Page

Town takes another look at Higgins Beach zoning

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


The town council last week reviewed a zoning amendment that would keep the rules to rebuild houses struck by flood, fire or other natural disaster at Higgins Beach in line with requirements in other zoning districts. The matter will be taken up by the planning board next month. (Courtesy photo) The town council last week reviewed a zoning amendment that would keep the rules to rebuild houses struck by flood, fire or other natural disaster at Higgins Beach in line with requirements in other zoning districts. The matter will be taken up by the planning board next month. (Courtesy photo) When the town council adopted character based zoning at Higgins Beach in late 2015, it was unchartered territory and unlike any other zoning area in town. Now, more than two years later and several months after the zoning allowances were last tweaked, the zoning may be changed again.

“It being a very different set of zoning rules than our more standard zoning, we wanted to rake a look a year, year and a half in to see how it was working, what did we get right and what could we work on,” Planning Director Jay Chace.

Chace said the latest suggested amendment would allow homeowners to make improvements to a home damaged or destroyed by fire, flood or act of God without having to bring the home into full compliance with the character zoning.


The zoning of a section of Ocean Avenue from Kelly Lane to Spurwink Avenue may be changed from coastal residential 1 to residential 4, two years after a zoning change switched the zoning in the opposite direction. The zone change is being pushed by the long range planning committee because the coastal residential zoning 1, which covers much of Higgins Beach is not appropriate because the properties in that section of Ocean Avenue is different from the types of property closer to the beach. (Courtesy image) The zoning of a section of Ocean Avenue from Kelly Lane to Spurwink Avenue may be changed from coastal residential 1 to residential 4, two years after a zoning change switched the zoning in the opposite direction. The zone change is being pushed by the long range planning committee because the coastal residential zoning 1, which covers much of Higgins Beach is not appropriate because the properties in that section of Ocean Avenue is different from the types of property closer to the beach. (Courtesy image) Currently, he wrote in a Dec. 26 letter to Town Manager Tom Hall, “the zoning ordinance allows all other properties, outside the (Higgins Beach) districts, the opportunity to rebuild or restore non-conforming structures within one year if the structure is damaged outside the owners’ control.”

As it stands now, an individual with a home damaged by fire, flood or some other act of God, would not be able to rebuild the structure without first bringing the entire structure into compliance with the Higgins Beach character-based zoning regulations.

The town council last week, per a suggestion by the long range planning committee, opted to pass a zoning amendment on to the planning board for its review.

Chace said the issue of the Higgins Beach character-based zoning requirements not meeting those stipulated in other zones was something brought up in the Higgins Beach zoning audit that was done last spring and summer.

The council also passed along to the planning board a zoning map alteration that would change the zoning on 16 properties along Ocean Avenue from Kelly Lane to Spurwink Road from coastal residential 1 to residential 4, which it was before the Higgins Beach character-based zoning initiative changed much of the neighborhood to coastal residential 1. The area of Higgins Beach between Greenwood Avenue and the beach would remain coastal residential 1.

Reverting the zoning back on that sec- tion of Ocean Avenue, Chace said, was something that was brought up at the public open house that was held to get residents thoughts on the new character-based zoning.

“These properties are really different and distinct from the ocean-side neighborhood. It’s more suburban development with larger lot sizes and buildings set back on the lot,” Chace said, adding the properties are also not on public sewer, which can hinder where the buildings can be built.

The Higgins Beach character code was adopted to ensure the character of the neighborhood would remain as it is developed. Chace said after talking with residents, the long range planning committee felt the Higgins Beach character code was not the right approach for the properties that line Ocean Avenue from Kelly Lane to Spurwink Road.

“In reviewing the information and public feedback, it appears as though goal of the Higgins Beach Code to align the zoning with the prevailing development pattern was not achieved on these properties,” he wrote in the Dec. 26 letter to Hall. “Rather than making more homes conforming, the code has essential converted conforming structures into non-conforming structures. Based on residents’ feedback and further inspection of the properties, the long range planning committee is proposing the Ocean Ave. area zoning be reverted back to the R4 District as it was previously zoned prior to December 2015 when the zoning map amendments associated with the adoption of the Code were established.”

Council Chairman Bill Donovan said it made sense to revert the zoning back to what it was.

“This little stretch of road was developed a great deal later and was zones R4 when developed so it fits more comfortable in R4 rather than Higgins Beach character code (zoning),” he said.

Chris Caiazzo, the council’s liaison to the long range planning committee, said both issues, the slight change in the character code and the map change, were thoroughly reviewed by the committee.

“I feel comfortable putting both recommendations forward. They were well thought out, well documented and well debated,” he said.

Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina said she too supports passing the topics onto the planning board.

Assistant Town Planner Jamel Torres said planning board members would review the changes at their Feb. 20 meeting.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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