Planning Board public hearings will be held on zoning changes Feb. 20, and on changes to the middle school site plan March 5.

The meetings take place in the French conference room at 16 Washington St. The Feb. 20 public hearing begins at 5 p.m.

The March 5 public hearing begins at 4 p.m., and is preceded by a 3 p.m. site walk around the Mary E. Taylor building on Knowlton Street.

Zoning changes

Proposed changes to accessory dwelling requirements will expand long-term rental options for owners of these properties, according to Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin.

The number of zones where these dwellings are allowed will expand to eight districts from five, and a requirement that an owner live on the property in the larger dwelling will be removed.

Accessory dwellings are defined as containing no more than 600 square feet of living space, and are allowed on lots too small to build multi-family housing. They are allowed in the traditional village, village extension, highway business, transitional river business and neighborhood service districts. The proposed change would allow these dwellings in the rural I and II, and coastal residential districts.

Another proposed change would require that both units are the primary residence of the occupants, but would not require the owner live on the property. Primary residence is defined as six consecutive months, plus one day.

A separate zoning proposal would eliminate the business transitional (BTR) zone by absorbing this area into the downtown business district. This change would simplify the town's zoning ordinance, according to Martin. It would also increase residential density in the area currently zoned BTR, as the downtown business district has a smaller minimum lot size for a dwelling unit.

Middle school site plan

The site plan for the new Camden-Rockport Middle School was approved in February 2018. However, it did not include the brick, three-story Mary E. Taylor school building, built in 1926, but instead depicted a practice field where the building is located.

In 2018, public support for reuse of the old school building eventually led to voter approval, in November of that year, of a $4.9 million renovation to the building.

Adding the Mary E. Taylor building back to the site plan has triggered the requirement for another site plan review by the Planning Board.

In December 2019, the Planning Board held a preliminary discussion of the amended site plan, with a focus on the Mary E. Taylor building site. No significant concerns were raised by board members during the discussion.

Revisions to the site plan are confined to the area surrounding the building. Two new parking areas containing 42 spaces will be located on the south and west sides of the building. New landscaping is added between the south parking lot and a residence abutting the school property.

A new driveway will connect the west parking area, located behind the brick building, with one of the parking lots at the new middle school. A sidewalk at the back of the west parking lot connects to walkways around the new middle school.

Fixth- and sixth-grade classrooms are currently located in the Mary E. Taylor building. Sixth- and seventh-grade classroom wings are located in the sprawling structure along Knowlton Street, which is set for demolition this summer. All students are scheduled to move to the new middle school building this fall.

After students vacate the Mary E. Taylor building, the plan is to renovate it to house Camden-Rockport School District administrative offices and the Zenith alternative education program for high school students. The ground floor, which is partially sub-grade, will be improved and offered as a possible rental space.