Friday, March 12, 2021

Windham could add two new districts later this spring

A map is shown of possible new districts that
could be approved by the Windham Town
Council later this spring. Under consideration
and discussed during a public forum on March 3
are new districts including a Windham Residential
District and a Windham Center District,
By Ed Pierce

Based upon recommendations from the town’s Long Range Planning Committee developed following a public webinar on March 3, the Windham Town Council could vote later this spring on a proposal to add two new zoning districts.

During the March 3 rezoning webinar conducted on Zoom, Windham residents were asked to comment on creating a new Village Residential District and a Windham Center District. The Windham Long Range Planning Committee is charged with implementation of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and mapping out where growth and changes are desired and where they are not desired is a central component of comprehensive planning.  

“The Future Land Use Map in the plan shows the general areas of Windham that should be targeted for growth and those that are important to the community to keep at low development levels,” said Amanda L. Lessard, Windham Planning Director. “Windham Center is one of the identified growth areas and is described in the plan as an area serving as the civic core of the community and as such, more walkable, connected residential development should be encouraged in this area.” 

Lessard said that the Windham Center Growth Area is mostly currently zoned as Farm District and Farm Residential District and these rural areas are zones that the town wants to direct growth away from.  

“A specific Comp Plan goal is to amend local ordinances to clearly define the desired scale, intensity, and location of future development using the descriptions provided in the Future Land Use Plan,” Lessard said. “Additionally, state law requires that a municipal zoning ordinance must be pursuant to and consistent with a comprehensive plan adopted by the municipal legislative body.”

She said that the LRPC reviewed the current zoning in other growth areas and determined that based on the existing lot sizes and land uses in the area and the Vision for Windham described in the comprehensive plan that Windham Center is different from other growth areas and should have its own zoning standards that are distinct on either side of the Pleasant River.

Another aspect of changes the council may be asked to approve are refining affordable housing standards, Lessard said.

“One of the Comp Plan goals is to encourage the development of affordable/workforce housing in Growth Areas,” she said. “The proposed standards would apply in the zoning districts that align with growth areas shown on the future land use map: Commercial 1 (C1) and Commercial 2 (C2) in the North Windham Growth Area, Medium-Density Residential (RM) in the Residential Growth Area, Village Commercial (VC) in the South Windham Growth Area, and the proposed Windham Center (WC) District in the Windham Center Growth Area.”

Lessard said that the proposed standards would allow for increases in residential density and height and decrease lot size, frontage and setbacks for developments that are served by public water and meet federal Median Family Income standards for affordability. 

“The affordability of the units must also be maintained for 10 years for ownership units, or 30 years for rental units,” she said.

Under the proposal that the council could take up would be the Village Residential District, to the west of the Pleasant River which could be intended to be a residential area with a limited number of small businesses. 

“The proposed zone slightly reduces minimum lot sizes and road frontages to allow for more residential development that is consistent with the older subdivision developments in the area,” Lessard said. “The Windham Center District, to the east of the Pleasant River, is intended to be the primarily residential civic village with a mixture of uses intended to complement the cultural, public, and institutional uses with other small business that meet local neighborhood needs.”

This proposed zone further reduces minimum lot sizes and road frontages (to be the same as the Town’s current Medium-Density Residential zone and proposes to allow additional commercial uses that are limited in size, Lessard said. 

“Both districts are proposed to require pitched rooflines, all new streets must be public streets, and new development on existing public streets must provide sidewalks along the frontage of the lot,” she said.  

It will be several months before Windham town councilors could vote on the rezoning proposal as there is a process to follow.

“The LRPC will consider revisions to the proposal based on public input and make a recommendation to the Windham Town Council,” Lessard said. “The Land Use Ordinance specifies the process for amendments, so the Council will forward the proposal to the Planning Board for review and recommendation.”

As part of the process, a public hearing will be held as part of the Windham Planning Board’s review.  The board’s recommendation will be sent back to the Windham Town Council for discussion and a public hearing before a vote is held.      

Windham’s Comprehensive Plan Update was adopted in June 2017 and included numerous policy and implementation strategies to achieve the vision for Windham in the next 10-plus years. 

“These were distilled into the 4 Big Things, one of which was ‘Change the game for Windham’s Growth Areas: North Windham, Windham Center, South Windham.,’” Lessard said. “This zoning change would expand the range of options available in Windham by allowing for different types and scales of neighborhood development and provide more options for people to choose from when considering Windham for a home or a place to start or expand a business.” <

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Comments Help Improve Your Community.