City also to look for full-time staff planner for second time

Rockland hires consultant to look at housing rules

By Stephen Betts | Jul 12, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts

Rockland — The City Council is scheduled to meet Tuesday, July 16, with a consultant who will be working on the hot-button issue of residential zoning.

The city entered into a contract July 10 with Sebago Technics of South Portland for $14,500 to help with planning of setbacks, housing sizes and lot sizes.

A consultant with the company will be at the City Council meeting to start at 5:30 p.m.

The contract with Sebago calls for the firm to look at how many houses conform to current lot sizes and setbacks and develop options for allowing more homes to be built. The company is also asked to analyze the affordability of housing in Rockland and recommend options for the city to have more at a variety of prices.

The City Council had approved an overhaul of residential zoning regulations at its Jan. 14 meeting, despite strong opposition from some residents, including several former mayors. Faced with a court appeal by a resident and a petition drive that would have placed a referendum before voters to repeal the law and prohibit it from being brought forth again for five years, the council repealed the ordinance change on its own April 1.

The city decided to contract with a consulting firm rather than wait for the hiring of a full-time staff planner. The City Council approved a 2019-2020 municipal budget that adds the full-time staff planner, but to save money will not fill the post until January.

This would be the second time that Rockland would have a full-time planner on staff.

Rockland first hired a full-time planner in 1988, hiring Don Green. That came at a time when the Rockland Planning Commission was being deluged with applications for residential and commercial development plans.

The City Council, however, cut the planner position out of the 1990 budget, citing financial constraints. That was the year the council also eliminated the deputy fire chief position and a public works laborer.

When the cuts were made, Green warned that the city would be harmed by the loss of his position.

"I feel bad for the citizens of Rockland, I feel the cuts will have regressive impacts," Green said in a 1990 interview.

Green said there was still work to do, both on waterfront planning and residential zoning regulations.

Both those issues are still being debated nearly 30 years later.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jul 13, 2019 08:45

Well George it seems as if Vallie & Company are going to get her border wall built despite any dissention from the angry crowd before she leaves office.  Yes mates, ignore those torpedo warnings it's full speed ahead.  "but Captain we have no money".  "Don't be silly we'll just add more fuel to the fire.  We don't need a planner, let's just pay these people $14,000 and they'll tell us anything I want to hear and if any one disagrees, we'll just publicly humiliate them and they'll quit.  This is a good plan, no matter what anyone thinks.   Someone has been reading "the Art of the Deal" by Donald Trump.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jul 12, 2019 17:38

George your friend Valli wants it..............NOW!

Kendall: Little houses cross the minds of little people, she wants them NOW!

Mary: Too many cooks burn the soup, she want them NOW!

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 12, 2019 13:21

It is a matter of too many cooks overseeing the cooks....bureaucracy in action!

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Jul 12, 2019 11:32

It's a back door to the implementing the tiny houses issue again.

Posted by: George Terrien | Jul 12, 2019 10:18

Why, why can our City not pause to consider issues comprehensively?  Spending $14,500 on assembling details before--before--hiring a planner and giving her time to settle in, and before--before--completing the Comprehensive Plan, seems premature.  Is it an emergency?  Or a bug-in-a-bonnet?  Or a need to know better?  Or..., what?

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