Shoreland Zoning Change Proposal December 14, 2023

Proposed change to Land Use and Shoreland Zoning Ordinance height in floodplain

From CEO Dennis Dever:

38 MRS 436A and 38 MRS 439A sub 4. were recently changed to allow legally existing structures in a flood hazard area, that are below flood elevation, to be raised to current floodplain elevations- required of new structures in a flood hazard area- and to slightly exceed maximum height limits to accomplish this.  That eliminates situations where older buildings in compliance with shoreland zone height limits in a flood zone could not be raised to modern standards if raising them put the building’s overall height above the height limit for new structures.Current structure height limits are 20 ft. if within 75 ft. of the water / upland edge of a wetland or 35 feet if beyond 75 feet from the water / upland edge of a wetland.  Height is currently defined as the highest point of structure as measured from the average of the original ground grade at the downhill side of the structure, chimneys and antennae etc. not withstanding.For example, lets say there is a legally existing building 25 ft from the high tide mark either a residence built in 1940 or a commercial boathouse that is a functionally water dependent use built in 2012 okay under shoreland zoning.  The building is 19 feet in height under existing definition.  The owner wants to raise the building four feet on piles to meet modern floodplain construction requirements for good reason to prevent damage from flooding.  That would change the building’s height (under current definition)  to 23 feet therefore prohibiting this common sense improvement because the height limit is 20 ft. in that location. This “catch 22” comes up quite often. We’re working on two of them now.The recommended changes to our ordinance would keep the defined height of the building at 19 feet after being raised on piles by four feet because the height of previously built legally existing structures in flood hazard zones would be changed to the distance from the bottom of sill to the highest point of the building, omitting the elevation added by the four foot piles.  However for new construction in flood hazard areas the existing height limits are required to remain as they are currently defined including the piling elevation.Other Towns including Mt. Desert have already instituted this change.