October 28, 2021

Freeport eyes Maine trend in subdivision moratorium

FREEPORT — Freeport has become the latest southern Maine town to try to limit growth.

The Town Council plans a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed 180-day moratorium on new subdivisions and is considering a plan to limit the number of building permits to 50 a year.

The council last week approved a 60-day emergency moratorium, which applies to subdivision proposals of five or more houses that have yet to receive planning board approval.

Advocates say the restrictions would protect Freeport from unwanted development while officials work for zoning changes designed to preserve open space and the town’s village character.

Scarborough, Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Dayton, York and Kittery are either considering a cap on building permits or have recently established one. Many towns began looking at caps after the Supreme Judicial Court this spring upheld building limits in Eliot and Wells.

Freeport officials say they must move fast to prevent their town from becoming a haven for developers who have been stymied in other towns.

“The developers are coming this way,” said Freeport council Chairman David Soley.

The State Planning Office does not support building-permit caps, saying they promote sprawl by forcing developers to seek land in rural towns where there are fewer growth controls.

Anti-growth measures have prompted southern Maine developers to rush to the region’s town halls to secure lots before the towns could establish moratoriums or building caps.

Developers applied for building permits in record numbers in June, according to an industry newsletter. The 49 cities and towns surveyed by Construction Data New England issued 399 permits, smashing all records for the past decade. The total is 59 percent higher than the number for June of last year.

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