April 05, 2020

Holden plan addresses affordable housing

HOLDEN – Town leaders want more affordable housing and are looking to contain rural sprawl with the updated comprehensive plan, Stephen Condon, code enforcement officer, said last week.

The town’s Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee has worked for the last 18 months on updating the 1995 comprehensive plan. The committee members have included as a goal that 55 percent of new housing in town to be decent and affordable and also have suggested new subdivision land use rules.

“The big issues are how to address affordable housing and how to address sprawl,” Condon said.

The updated draft comprehensive plan is available for viewing at the town office and on the town’s Web site, www.holdenmaine.com. The advisory committee reviewed housing, economy, natural resources, public facilities and services, municipal finances, transportation and future land use.

To restrict rural sprawl, the comprehensive plan committee is suggesting that all subdivisions in all zones be classified as open space subdivisions, commonly known as conservation developments or cluster developments, where building is restricted to typically half of the parcel.

The open space subdivision “is a technique that concentrates development in a compact area in one portion of the site in exchange for providing open space and natural areas elsewhere on the site,” the draft plan states. “The minimal lot sizes, setbacks and frontage requirements for the zone are relaxed in order to create open space on the site.”

The rural residential zones now require 3-acre home lots. If the plan is accepted, that requirement could be modified.

The draft plans also call for the creation of new incentives for developers who provide public access to the open space areas in their subdivisions.

Identifying and protecting the town’s natural resources and encouraging village-type developments are other goals of the future land use portion of the updated comprehensive plan.

Between 1999 and 2004, 120 new dwellings were added in Holden and 14 new businesses moved to town, the draft plan states.

The updated goals for housing in Holden for the next decade center around adding more affordable places to live, Condon said.

“Affordable housing is a tough one,” he said.

The advisory board listed eight strategies to reach the goal of having 55 percent of new housing units built as affordable housing. Included on the list are the possibility of reducing lot sizes and frontage requirements in growth districts for multifamily dwellings and adding incentives to developers who build affordable housing units.

The Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee presented the draft information to residents last month, but only six residents and planning board members attended the public hearing, Condon said.

The state now is reviewing Holden’s updated comprehensive plan and is expected to have recommendations within the next two months, he said.

“They never come back clean,” Condon said.

If the state recommends major changes to the draft comprehensive plan, another public hearing will be held before it’s adopted by town leaders. If the state makes only minor changes, no additional hearing will be held, the code enforcement officer said.

“Then, we start the updating of the ordinances,” Condon said.

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