Informational Sheet - proposed Land Use Ordinance





May 22, 2009



Who is the Land Use Planning Committee?


The Land Use Planning Committee (LUPC) is a committee comprised of ten residents: the seven members of the Planning Board and three residents appointed by the Select Board.


What is the Goal of the Land Use Planning Committee?


The goal of the LUPC is to help the Town manage growth through the development of a new set of local ordinances, so that as we approach our 250th year we will be well prepared to preserve the characteristics of our town that make it a nice place to live, while continuing to support a vibrant and community-centered local economy.


What is the problem with our existing Ordinances?


Our current ordinances have been pieced together in parts over many years; therefore there are conflicts between the individual ordinances and there are provisions within the individual ordinances that just do not make sense.  For example:


§         The existing Land Use Regulation & Shoreland Zoning Ordinance places an older version of shoreland zoning standards town-wide.  The problem with this is that these standards were originally meant for the shoreland zone, so they can be overly restrictive for the areas of Town that are outside of the shoreland zone. 

§         The State of Maine will not recognize the existing Land Use Regulation & Shoreland Zoning Ordinance as our Shoreland Zoning Ordinance because it is based on an older version of the State’s Shoreland Zoning Guidelines.  Because of this the Town had to keep its 1998 Shoreland Zoning Ordinance in order to comply with the State’s Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act.

§         The Land Use Regulation & Shoreland Zoning Ordinance and the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance are in conflict in several areas.  For example, where the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance allows a permit from the Code Enforcement Officer, the Land Use Regulation & Shoreland Zoning Ordinance requires a permit from the Planning Board (i.e. docks, residential houses and garages).

§         The Land Use Regulation & Shoreland Zoning Ordinance is in conflict with the Multi-Family Dwelling Ordinance.   The Land Use Regulation & Shoreland Zoning Ordinance does not allow for the provisions set forth in the Multi-Family Dwelling Ordinance, making the Multi-Family Dwelling Ordinance ineffective.

§         The Building Permit Ordinance is in conflict with the Mobile Homes & House Trailers Ordinance, making the several sections of the Mobile Homes & House Trailers Ordinance worthless.

§         The definition section in each individual ordinance is different, and a couple of the Ordinances do not have definitions sections.


These are some examples of how our current ordinances can be confusing and burdensome for residents, builders, the Planning Board, and professionals. 


What is the purpose of the proposed Land Use Ordinance?


The goals of the proposed Land Use Ordinance are to:


§         Fix the conflicts that currently exist between individual Ordinances.

§         Fix existing issues, problems, and areas of confusion within our Ordinances.

§         Provide a consistent, efficient and fair land use regulation process.

§         Make the language throughout the ordinance as consistent as possible.

§         Be consistent with State Rules.

§         Make the Ordinance more user friendly for all.


I think this proposed Land Use Ordinance is just more regulation/rules about what I can do with my land.


The Town currently has ten ordinances, which regulate what property owners can do with their land.  In some cases these existing regulations are unnecessarily restrictive and burdensome to residents.  One example of this is the existing non-conformance section in our Land Use Regulation & Shoreland Zoning Ordinance, (please see below).  The proposed Land Use Ordinance replaces and updates nine of our existing ordinances.


The decision at Town Meeting will be whether to keep the ordinances that we have now, as they are, or to adopt a new ordinance that revises and updates our existing ordinances.


What happens if the proposed Land Use Ordinance does not pass?


The existing Ordinances will remain in place and will continue to be confusing and burdensome for residents, builders, the Planning Board, and professionals.   Additionally, the State will impose a Shoreland Zoning Ordinance on the Town, which the Town will have to administer and enforce.


What are the major changes between our existing ordinances and the proposed Land Use Ordinance?


Consolidation of Ordinances


The proposed Land Use Ordinance will replace the following ten ordinances:

1)      Land Use Regulation & Shoreland Zoning Ordinance

2)      Shoreland Zoning Ordinance

3)      Building Permit Ordinance

4)      Floodplain Management Ordinance

5)      Board of Appeals Ordinance

6)      Ordinance Regulating Mobile Homes and House Trailers

7)      The Bowdoinham Multi-Family Dwelling Ordinance

8)      Site Plan Review Ordinance

9)      Subdivision Ordinance

10)      Residential Growth Ordinance


Consolidating these ten ordinances into one ordinance will eliminate the conflicts that currently exist between separate ordinances. (And the binder containing all of the Ordinances will go from being three inches thick to only one inch.)




Currently, each of our major ordinances contains its own definitions section.  By having only one Land Use Ordinance we will have one set of definitions, which will eliminate the conflicts and inconsistencies that currently exist between the definitions in separate ordinances.


Non-Conformance Section


Currently, our Land Use Regulation & Shoreland Zoning Ordinance classifies any non-conforming lot, building or use as a non-conforming use and requires anyone who wants to expand a non-conforming use to obtain a permit from the Planning Board. A non-conforming lot is a lot that does not meet the lot area, lot frontage or lot coverage requirements, and a non-conforming building is a building that does not meet the setback requirements from property line, road or water body.  Therefore, the current situation for most property owners within the village area of town is that they must obtain a permit from the Planning Board to construct a garage, deck, porch and/or addition to their home.


The proposed Land Use Ordinance classifies each of the non-conformities (lot, building, use) separately, and provides guidelines for the expansion/use of each which does not automatically require a permit from the Planning Board.  For example, if a property owner wants to construct an addition to a house that doesn’t meet the front yard setback but the proposed addition will meet all the property setbacks and will not further reduce the front yard setback, then the property owner may do so with just a building permit from the code enforcement officer. 


Shoreland Zoning


The LUPC has updated our Shoreland Zoning to be in compliance with the Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act, 38 M.R.S.A. Sections 435-449.  The Town is required to adopt, administer and enforce a Shoreland Zoning Ordinance that is no less stringent than these State Guidelines by July 1, 2009.


Shoreland Zoning involves two aspects: district mapping and the ordinance language. 

§         The district mapping has been done in compliance with the State’s requirements. 

o       The District Mapping does not exceeded the State’s Minimum Requirements.

o       The General Development District has been expanded to replace the Limited Commercial District in some of the village area.

o       A General Development II District has been added in place of the Resource Protection District along Route 201.

§         The LUPC used Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Guidelines for Municipal Shoreland Zoning Ordinances as a base to create this Shoreland Zoning section.  The LUPC is proposing some language that is more stringent than what the State’s Minimum Guidelines require.  For example,

o       The minimum building setback would remain at 100 feet as in our existing Land Use Regulation and Shoreland Zoning Ordinance.  The State only requires a 75-foot setback.

o       A standard for crossing certain streams has as been added.  This standard comes from the Army Corp of Engineers and requires a larger crossing than Maine Department of Environmental Protection currently requires.

o       Certain commercial/industrial uses are prohibited in the shoreland zone.


Site Plan Review & Subdivision


The LUPC has revised both the Site Plan Review and Subdivision sections of the ordinance for greater consistency with each other. 


Performance Standards


Many of the Performance Standards in the existing Land Use Regulation & Shoreland Zoning Ordinance will be removed, as they are Shoreland Zoning Standards from previous/outdated State Guidelines.


The proposed Land Use Ordinance contains the following new Performance Standards:


§         Access Management – New vehicular accesses onto Town Roads will have to meet this standard.  This standard is necessary to ensure the ongoing safety and integrity of the Town’s Roads. 

§         Back Lots – This standard allows for the creation of lots without road frontage, so long as the new lot meets this standard.  Currently, the Town does not allow for back lots; therefore any new lot has to have the required 150-ft of road frontage built on. 

§         Road Standards – The standard provides minimum design standards for new private roads to ensure safety and passage for emergency vehicles.

§         Temporary Buildings – This standard states that temporary buildings shall meet the property setbacks.

§         Timber Harvesting – This standard is being changed to eliminate the language from the current Land Use Regulation & Shoreland Zoning Ordinance.  The LUPC is proposing to remove this standard because they have heard from several foresters and timber harvesters about how restrictive this standard is and how it is an obstacle to sound forest management.  The proposed standard will refer to the State’s Timber Harvesting Laws, Rules, and Standards. 

§         Wind Mills – The standard provides guidelines for the placement of new windmills to ensure the safety of abutting properties.