ROCKLAND, Maine — There is a desperate need for more housing in Rockland, and Councilor Valli Geiger has proposed changes to the city’s zoning law, which she hopes will result in more residential construction.

The City Council postponed a preliminary vote Monday night on Geiger’s proposed ordinance changes to give the panel time to hold workshops with the public on the issue.

“These are large changes. I want them to be vetted by the public,” Geiger said at the meeting.

Rockland often is referred to as land poor, with little room for added development. Geiger said that by reducing the minimum lot size required for building a home, the city could generate considerably more residential construction.

“We’re in desperate need of workforce housing,” Geiger said. In addition, she said there is nearly a zero vacancy rate for apartments in Rockland.

The councilor said millennials and baby boomers want to live close to town, where they can walk to stores and services. By allowing construction on smaller lots, the city can keep development in areas where there is already available infrastructure, such as sewers and sidewalks.

This approach is a better one to provide more affordable housing than building another large apartment complex, such as what Penquis has been seeking, Geiger said.

Penquis has been looking for locations to build 25 to 30 apartments for low-income tenants. The sites looked at included the former MacDougal School property the city owns.

The City Council expressed no interest in converting that land to housing. On Monday, Parks Commission member Joseph Steinberger said the commission is seeking public input on what should be done with the 5-acre lot. He said ideas have included a community garden, a playground or a nature area. The public can submit their ideas for the park to the commission at City Hall, by calling him at 596-0731 or by emailing to him at

Geiger’s zone change proposal calls for reducing the minimum lot size in the residential B zones, which is the most common in Rockland, from 5,000 square feet to 2,500. In the more restrictive A zones, the minimum lot size would drop from 10,000 to 6,400 square feet.

The proposal also would reduce the minimum floor area from 750 square feet to 500, and setbacks would be decreased.

These changes, Geiger said, would allow several lots to be divided up and more homes could be built. In addition, the proposal would allow small accessory homes to be built on a lot with an existing house.

Code Enforcement Officer John Root said Tuesday he thinks the proposals are good. He said minimum building sizes that were increased in Rockland back in the 1980s have prevented many existing lots from being built on to their potential.

Rockland’s population has declined from a post-World War II high of 9,284 in 1950 to a low of 7,297 in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Root said he does not know how many more homes could be built in Rockland if this ordinance change were to be approved.

The code officer pointed out that there are some property owners waiting for changes to occur. He said one person, for instance, owns a vacant building that previously had five apartment units, but current zoning prevents only allows a maximum of two in the structure.

Mayor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said Monday night she would schedule workshops for the public to provide input on the proposed changes. No meetings have yet been set.