Rockland mayor to shelve plan to increase housing density

By Stephen Betts | Mar 11, 2018
Source: File photo

Rockland — Rockland Mayor Valli Geiger said she plans to indefinitely postpone a proposal that would have allowed for denser residential development, a proposal that has met with considerable opposition.

Geiger has sponsored an ordinance amendment to allow for accessory apartments on residential lots.

The mayor said she considers the proposal a simple change to the municipal ordinances so that an in-law apartment, for example, would not have to be physically connected to an existing home. Geiger said she proposed it after someone in her neighborhood was told that an accessory apartment would have to have a physical connection.

But the proposal stirred up opposition from people who argued that the measure could reshape the character of neighborhoods.

Barry Faber is one of the critics of the proposal. "It would allow an additional dwelling on every single residential lot in every zone of the city, in everyone’s front yard or side yard or back yard, as long as it meets the setback requirements. This ordinance was written and brought forth by our mayor in the name of a housing crisis before any committee met," Faber said.

The ordinance amendment received preliminary approval Jan. 8 and faces a formal public hearing and final vote Monday night, March 12. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

But Geiger said she plans to have the proposal postponed indefinitely to allow the newly created housing committees to consider its merit.

One committee, which includes Councilor Lisa Westkaemper, will come up with recommendations on tiny-house regulations, as well as proposals to increase residential density in neighborhoods.

Another committee, which includes Councilor Adam Ackor, will develop recommendations on converting the McLain School into housing. The city is expected to take control of the school by year's end, when Regional School Unit 13 vacates the building.

And the third committee, which includes Councilor Ed Glaser, will look at developing upper floors of downtown buildings.

Geiger has focused on the lack of affordable housing, calling it one of the greatest challenges facing the community. She said industries are having a difficult time finding employees because workers cannot find housing they can afford.

Under the proposed ordinance, the accessory apartment would need to meet setbacks for existing buildings on the lot. Either the accessory apartment or main home must be owner-occupied. And one off-street parking space would be required for the apartment.

The apartment would be limited to one bedroom and could be no less than 425 square feet and no more than 800 square feet.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Ian Emmott | Mar 12, 2018 12:17

Pretty dense right now if you ask me! Pretty sure the “ housing crisis” is not our greatest challenge by talking to people. Just saying

Posted by: Jon Koski | Mar 11, 2018 20:17

Seems conflicting, the mayor was basically suggesting we open the door for tiny houses and that plan was shelved.  Now Councilor Lisa Westkaemper, will come up with recommendations on tiny-house regulations.  If you a concerned about your property value I suggest people to start paying attention.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Mar 11, 2018 18:32

How does one councilor/major make decisions for the entire populace of Rockland?

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Mar 11, 2018 13:29

A positive decision; am sure made after a lot of thought.  Our council has a lot on its plate in the coming months and need helpful insights. Hope it can continue as we work for what is best with open hearts as well as ears.

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