Main Street overlay district approved

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The Orono Town Council has given its approval to a Main Street overlay district at its meeting on Monday night, a decision that came after numerous discussions over many months.

The district was one piece of the revised Orono Comprehensive Plan that was adopted in 2015 and still continues to be implemented. The district will run along Main Street 300 feet deep from its intersections with Juniper Street and Kelly Road, and will allow some flexibility in the use of residential properties in the corridor while preserving important architectural features that are historically and visually appealing in that area. At the present time, the corridor is quite limited in its use; home occupations, for instance, are allowed with contract zoning, which can be a fairly demanding process; nonconforming uses also are allowed for grandfathered properties.

As initally proposed, the ordinances were stricter, leading to some blowback from the public. Some residents urged the town to not go too far in regulating the corridor; others wanted the town to leave things as they are, saying the district simply wasn’t needed. A compromose plan was developed, with proposed ordinances scaled back.

New rules will now would limit additional uses in the corridor to offices; properties with offices will also be required to have a residential use. Architectural standards that originally would have applied to all historic buildings in the corridor will be limited to large scale office use, and basic property management standards will be required for office use.