Residents in Rockland packed the senior center for a presentation from the 40-R Smart Growth Overlay Committee.
Under 40-R, officials are able to create an area in town that includes mixed-use — residential and commercial development. As development progresses, towns can receive incentive payments from the state.
“This is one tool hopefully that we’ll have to be able to show developers, to show businesses that we’re flexible, that we’re serious about attracting good and reputable developers to the town,” said Selectman and Chair of the Committee, Mike Mullen.
As an overlay district, the existing zoning in the area still applies. Ralph Willmer, the Principal Planner for the committee, said it gives developers more options for construction.
On the town side, Willmer said the Planning Board would still work with developers to agree to a project that works best for the town, aesthetically and design-wise.
The committee presented their proposal, while residents also got a chance to ask questions and submit feedback on it.
Willmer showed examples of 40-R projects from around the state and the committee got feedback from residents on which examples they liked and which they did not.
Mullen said they went parcel by parcel in coming up with a boundary along Union Street.
Residents raised concerns such as density, parking, and building height.
One resident, who said she grew up in town, was concerned with the proposal.
“It’s sad, it’s not going to be a small town anymore.”
Resident Dave Dunphy raised questions as well.
“I had brought up water usage, sewer usage, police, fire, et cetera,” said Dunphy. “…Do we have the infrastructure to handle the additional number of residents we’re trying to attract?”
Dunphy felt with the long-term impact to the town, there should be more discussion.
Town Administrator Allan Chiocca said it will eventually give Rockland more choice on development in town, rather than the limited options presented from a 40-B project.
“We can say no to everything,” said Chiocca. “But you have to creep towards that number.”
The town is roughly halfway to the affordable housing percentage in state guidelines.
Many other residents felt something needs to be done with the downtown area.
“It’s dead! It’s absolutely dead,” said resident Shelia Webster Togo. “When I first moved here, I’d walk up, push the carriage uptown every single day. There were all kinds of stores and all kinds of people on the street. Now it’s absolutely dead. It’s sad.”
With the feedback, the 40-R committee will look to finalize their proposal at their next meeting, Thursday, Feb. 23. The zoning change will appear as an article at Town Meeting in May.