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Growth Management Ordinance

Growth in Scarborough

Scarborough is a desirable community to live and work, sought after for its proximity to Portland, quality schools and services, access to nature and coastal ecosystems, and pristine beaches. This attractiveness to new residents is nothing new. Scarborough’s population and housing trends have been among the State’s fast growing for more than 5 decades.

The Growth Management Ordinance (GMO) was adopted in 2001 in reaction to the rapid single-family housing development that was prevalent in the late 1990s and early 2000s and its impact on our school facilities and municipal services. Scarborough is fairly unique in this regard, as very few communities in Maine use such a growth management measure. 

The backdrop of the current GMO discussion is the recent diversification in housing construction. The increase in development of multi-family choices was not the focus or the expected pattern of development during the adoption of the current GMO. The recent multi-family development, when coupled with the traditional single-family growth, has created pressure on the current system and a need for significant modifications to the GMO.

Growth Management Ordinance

About the Ordinance

On May 5, 2021, the Town Council approved a new Growth Management Ordinance. This Ordinance does not take effect until June 1, 2021.

Our Growth Management Ordinance (GMO) is a very specific tool to manage the pace of development within our community. The ordinance regulates how much of the allowable growth in an area can occur in a single year, within the framework of the following criteria:

  1. To provide for the immediate housing needs of the existing residents of the Town of Scarborough.
  2. To ensure fairness in the allocation of building permits.
  3. To plan for continued residential population growth in Scarborough which will be compatible with orderly and gradual expansion of community services including, but not limited to, education, public safety, transportation infrastructure, waste disposal and health services.
  4. To avoid circumstances in which the rapid development of new residences, potentially housing many families with school age children, would outpace the Town’s capability to expand its schools and other necessary services soon enough to avoid serious school overcrowding and a significant reduction in the level and quality of other municipal services.

Under State statute, our GMO is used to manage the pace of growth, not total growth within the community. It cannot, on its own, determine how much ultimate growth is allowed in an area of town. Other tools, such as the zoning ordinance regulate total growth through density and development standards.

Current GMO Work

Twenty years later, with an increased rate of growth, permit allocation reaching capacity within months of the new year’s allotment, and an updated Comprehensive Plan near completion, the Town Council is actively reviewing changes to the GMO to better accommodate the needs of the town.

Ordinance Amendments

The Council currently has two separate orders on their agendas related to changes to the Growth Management Ordinance:

One item is a repeal and replace of the existing Ordinance- Order No. 21-029 

One is an amendment to the existing Ordinance- Order No. 21-024 

At this time the Council is considering the repeal and replace version under Order 21-029 as first order of business. Should the repeal and replace Ordinance enacted, which is being considered on May 7th, the Council is likely to dismiss the amendments of the existing Ordinance as the repeal and replace address the key provision of the proposed amendment.