In this July 8, 2020, file photo, traffic travels up Stillwater Avenue at the Hogan Road intersection in Bangor. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A number of zoning changes planned for the Bangor Mall area would allow new kinds of businesses to locate there and make it easier for restaurants to offer outdoor dining, which has become more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bangor’s planning officer, Anne Krieg, suggested rezoning much of the mall area to include “light industrial” uses back in July 2020, which would allow businesses besides retail establishments to open. Those types of businesses include things such as warehouses, laboratories, gas stations and manufacturing facilities, as well as bars and lounges.

“Demand for light industrial and manufacturing has risen drastically over the last few years in the region,” Krieg said in July 2020. “This area is ideal for light industry and manufacturing. There are two I-95 exits in the subject area. The area also contains large-scale buildings that may be repurposed, or may easily be redeveloped.”

That change, and one that would reduce the number of parking spaces required for businesses in the area, will go before the Bangor City Council for a first reading on Monday. If approved, the council will send the measure to the planning board, which will make recommendations at its March 2 meeting. It will then go back to the council for a full vote on March 8, and if approved, the changes would go into effect on March 18.

A light industrial categorization would prohibit businesses that emit “noxious or injurious” byproducts such as smoke and odors. It would also include additional restrictions on businesses adjacent to the Penjajawoc Marsh, which runs behind many of the businesses on the northeastern end of Stillwater Avenue, closer to Walmart and Target.

The new district would follow Stillwater Avenue from the Interstate 95 overpass to just north of the intersection of Stillwater and Hogan Road. It would include the Bangor Mall, as well many of the other side roads throughout the shopping district, and a small section of Hogan Road.

Additionally, Krieg proposed some other zoning changes at the city’s Business and Economic Development Committee meeting on Jan. 19, including reducing the number of parking spaces required for businesses in areas zoned Shopping and Personal Service District, which is presently what the entire mall area is zoned as. This reduction would allow more flexibility for restaurants to offer outdoor seating in those parking spaces.

Outdoor dining has become increasingly popular during the pandemic, and a few restaurants at the mall area already have the space to offer it, including Chick-fil-A and Bangor Beer Company. Most mall-area restaurants are not able to offer outdoor seating, however, due to almost all their available outdoor space being taken up by required parking.

Additionally, reducing the amount of required parking at the mall would free up more space for those light industrial uses, which may not require the large number of parking spaces that a large retail or dining establishment might.

“We have heard for some time that our parking requirements can be burdensome for some development projects, so reducing those minimums and providing an opportunity for flexibility in consultation with City staff can help alleviate that,” said Tanya Emery, the city’s economic development director. “We also know that excessive parking isn’t great for the environment.”

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.