BELFAST, Maine — Belfast is a city that could use more in-town housing options, according to the city officials that last fall voted in favor of changing zoning ordinances to allow for the construction of smaller apartments and houses.
But not everyone understands what the zoning changes could mean for their properties, and that’s why residents are invited to come to a discussion to be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday that is intended to provide some clarification — and hopefully a little inspiration, according to City Councilor Mike Hurley.
“We passed these zoning laws almost a year ago, and I realized nobody knew about it. I just want to try to really get the word out there in Belfast,” Hurley said Friday afternoon. “One, we want more density. Two, we want more affordable housing. Three, we want more valuation.”
The zoning changes are intended to make that possible, according to Belfast City Planner Wayne Marshall. He said that previously, minimum lot requirements to build new houses within the Route 1 bypass were 10,000 square feet or 15,000 square feet, depending on where the lots were located. Now, the minimum lot size to build a house has been reduced to 7,500 square feet everywhere.
“We wanted to take advantage of areas where the public has expended money on services, including roads, sewers and sidewalks,” he said. “Let’s let more happen there.”
Some folks have gotten the word about that change, he said, with about a dozen property owners splitting and selling their in-town lots that previously would not have been large enough to do so.
Another major change to zoning ordinances is that a detached accessory structure now can be built on a lot that already has a single-family home, and used to create a one-bedroom apartment. That means that garages, barns and other stand-alone structures could potentially create value — or at least housing options — for the property owners.
Marshall said that residents who want to downsize, or be able to age in place, might choose to move out of their home and into a smaller house on the same property.
“There’s a lot of people out there who are older. Their spouses may have passed away,” he said. “They love their neighborhood. They love where they live, but the house is getting to be too much for them.”
He said Belfast also needs more good quality rental housing.
“We need more options for folks,” Marshall said. “We’re giving people more opportunity to use the land that they have.”
The discussion will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, July 20, at the Belfast Free Library, with architect David Foley, City Planner Wayne Marshall, builder Ruffy Loblein and tiny house builders Wade Ambrose and Tara Keller Ambrose in attendance.