Give new zoning a chance

Feb 07, 2019

The petition drive and lawsuit aimed at overturning recent changes the City Council made to zoning is an overreaction.

The council recently revamped zoning to reduce minimum building size requirements, setbacks and road frontage rules. We were skeptical about this plan at first, and it did seem that the council voted this in despite vocal opposition from residents at the meetings.

However, we would also argue that Councilor Valli Geiger and others have done a good job of making the case for these changes. In a recent video interview with us, which can be viewed on, she pointed out that with the setback and building requirements that were in place previously, you couldn't build Rockland today as a city with homes huddled close together on urban streets. The zoning the council changed was based on the idea that everyone wanted a big house in the suburbs. We live in a new era with different economic realities.

Rockland has an aging population and a shortage of affordable housing and rental units. This zoning allows for creating a small building on a property so an aging relative can live close to family. It could also be used as a starter home for an adult child, or relatives with disabilities who want a certain amount of independence while living close to family members.

Part of the concern is the loss of our neighborhoods to vacation rental properties. The council has also put in place a cap on short-term rentals for people who do not live in the community. Any other than the 65 within the limit must be owner-occupied properties.

Young professionals and millennials carrying a lot of student loan debt are seeking smaller, more affordable, more environmentally friendly housing arrangements, and could be drawn to a walkable place like Rockland.

Without changes to our overregulated zoning, we would face loss of neighborhoods in any case, because Rockland has become difficult to afford.

Ordinances and zoning can be amended over time, and if this plan causes problems, it can be tweaked in the future.

We would urge residents to give the council's plan a chance and see how it works out. We do not see any evidence that this will create major problems that rise to the level that a petition or lawsuit is needed to override the council's decision.

Comments (6)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Feb 08, 2019 15:40

Richard McKusic said it right on 2/7...the little guy in affordable housing suffers as the council rakes in the money. This sounds like Camden when taxes rose so much the Veterans of WW 2 got together and attempted to convince City Hall to lower taxes to no avail. So the veterans did what the town told them to do, they moved out into the suburbs. Sadly the town lost good taxpayers but replaced them with out-of-staters to pay the bill.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Feb 08, 2019 12:01

I would add that Habitat for Humanity has applied to build affordable housing in Rockland. Habitat is a research-based housing organization. Council says affordable housing is needed in Rockland, yet council has not moved to approve the ordinance for this much needed housing.

-Phyllis Merriam

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Feb 08, 2019 09:47

The Courier/Village Soup's editorial exposes the lack of basic research by the paper's staff and an endorsement of the council's failure to follow our city's Comprehensive Plan, which requires an analysis of housing needs and surveys of neighborhood residents' who would be impacted by Amended Ordinance #48. Amended Ordinance #48 would double housing density in all of the city's neighborhoods and put a huge strain on our already out-dated and fragile water/sewer lines, which continue to have many failures, resulting in sewer back-ups into residents' basements, toilets, showers and sinks. It is disappointing that our news media endorses three counselors' opinions, that lack evidence-based research, over the needs of 7,200 residents. We likely have housing needs in Rockland. However, without surveys and analyses of 7,200 residents' housing needs, counselors have legislated a one-size-fits-all ordinance.

-Phyllis Merriam


Posted by: THOMAS MARSHALL, JR | Feb 08, 2019 07:57

Bravo Village Soup!  The proposed ordinance change sets the code BACK to what it was before the current ordinance was inflicted on the city.  Now the old guard politicians are using every means possible to cover up the mistakes they made.  The current code translates into discrimination and prevents current residents from making decisions about how they can use their properties.  The current code keeps out what the old guard see as the ‘riff raff’, stifles the vitality of the city, and preserves old guard wealth.  Ordinance 48 returns the city to its roots of a welcoming, dynamic, even boisterous town of energy and new ideas.  Ordinance 48 removes the shackles of bad code.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Feb 07, 2019 13:17

Way too often in our past the "Good Old Boys" have prevented us from moving ahead.  MBNA bought up and tore down much of our affordable  housing. City leadership's attitude then was: "If taxes are too high sell your house and move.".  Hope that this does not happen again. The council has worked as a team to find an answer to our housing shortage. Do you have a better answer? Let's hear it.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Feb 07, 2019 09:15

Who is the "we" in this opinion piece? Doesn't the Village Soup require authorship of published opinions?


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