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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 first 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. 

Recent diversification in housing construction led to complexities surrounding the GMO. The increase in development of multi-family choices was not the focus or the expected pattern of development during the adoption of the 2001 GMO. Recent multi-family developments, when coupled with the traditional single-family growth, created pressure on the system and a need for significant modifications to the GMO. The Town Council approved a new Growth Management Ordinance on May 5, 2021. It took effect on June 1, 2021.

Growth Management Ordinance

About the Ordinance

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.

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 modified the GMO to better accommodate the needs of the town.


View all Scarborough Town Ordinances. The Growth Management Ordinance is listed as 413.

Ordinance Amendments

The Council had two proposed changes to the Growth Management Ordinance: A repeal and replace of the existing Ordinance- Order No. 21-029, and an amendment to the existing Ordinance- Order No. 21-024

Residential Permit Reporting

The amended Growth Management Ordinance adopted in 2021 requires reporting for residential permits issued as of the June 1, 2021 effective date. Records will be updated monthly.  We appreciate the community's patience as staff continues to refine the process for updating and maintaining these records.

2021 Residential Growth Overview Memo

GMO 2021 Archived Report