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Resetting on Growth

Resetting on Growth

Council Corner: Resetting on Growth

By Jon Anderson, Town Council

October 5th was a big meeting for the Town to reset on growth. It was not the clearest or easiest process to get here, but I am looking forward to this fresh start.  At the meeting, the Council approved amendments to the Growth Management Ordinance (GMO), withdrew the Downs initial growth exemption request that was submitted nearly a year ago essentially requesting unrestrained growth, and committed to revisit and revise the GMO in 2023.

For amendments to the GMO, the Council agreed to allow up to 100 bedroom units under 750 square feet in our designated growth areas through 2024, which will allow for more affordable housing.   The Council also approved up to 289 units in the Crossroads Planned Development District through 2025 which will allow the Downs to demonstrate a proof of concept, developing the first phase of the town center with mixed use style buildings with both residential and commercial spaces.   We limited the number of  3+ bedroom units to curtail further pressure on our schools, which are already beyond capacity.  This amendment will also enable an affordable housing project for individuals with disabilities.   We also placed a temporary hold on new exemption applications until April 2023 to give us some breathing room while we re-evaluate our approach on growth management.   While these numbers may seem staggering at first, all together the average annual growth through 2025 will be less than it has been in the past 5 years.

Many expressed concerns with the approach the Council took by avoiding the council exemption process established in the GMO by simply amending the ordinance. While initially, I was very concerned with this approach, after the amendment enhancements accepted by the Council on the 5th, the benefits these exemptions will bring to Scarborough in affordable housing and progress towards a town center, the difficult learnings we’ve experienced in the past year trying to work through an exemption process and lastly the commitment by the Council to assign Councilor McGee and myself to revisit the GMO, I was willing to support the amendment.  While I do think we left opportunities on the table with the Downs and have less mechanisms to hold them accountable, I’m most concerned about the loss of trust residents have claimed.  This was a tough decision with that in mind, but ultimately I saw this as an opportunity for the fresh start we need in the Town at this very moment.  I’m confident we will find a better path forward on growth management as we re-evaluate the current GMO.  A path that will create a more predictable pace of growth that residents can generally accept that maintains or enhances the quality of life and keeps our town affordable, while also establishing clearer and more straightforward rules for development in Scarborough that everyone can understand.   

We have work to do to figure this out and rebuild trust, and I am committed to do it.  I ask for the skeptics to give us a chance and to also take advantage of this reset opportunity.  I invite you to come work with us to find a better way to manage growth in Scarborough.  You can start by joining me and others at the Councilor Corner Live on October 20th at 6PM at the Public Safety Building.   Our topic will be on Traffic and Transportation.  One of the biggest concerns we hear regarding growth is the impact on traffic.  Come share with us your concerns and help us identify solutions to consider.  The Town and developers are doing so much to mitigate traffic concerns as we grow, but what else can we do?  What are we missing?  Beyond expanding roads and slowing growth, how can we get less cars on our roads in Scarborough?  What alternative methods of transportation should we be investing in going forward?  

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Scarborough Town Council.

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