Gorham eyes zone changes: Residential units could be allowed in the Narragansett Development District.

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This photo depicts the approach along the Bernard P. Rines Bypass in Gorham to the roundabout on Narragansett Street (Route 202). Town planners are looking at redefining size and allowable uses in the Narragansett Development District zone west of the roundabout.

This photo depicts the approach along the Bernard P. Rines Bypass in Gorham to the roundabout on Narragansett Street (Route 202). Town planners are looking at redefining size and allowable uses in the Narragansett Development District zone west of the roundabout.

GORHAM — Four-storied structures housing multi-family residences on floors above businesses could rise near the village in the future under a proposed revamp of the town’s Narragansett Development District zone.

The Town Council aims to amend the district’s primarily commercial zoning to allow residential units in mixed-use buildings, conforming with the town’s comprehensive plan. It sent the proposal to the Planning Board to update.

The process got off the ground Monday with a Planning Board subcommittee review of proposed zone uses to be allowed in a proposed expansion of the district on Narragansett Street (Route 202). The zone runs westerly from a bypass traffic circle.

The zoning district, a short distance from the heart of Gorham Village, is well poised for mixed-use development. It’s located off a section of the Bernard P. Rines Bypass that could be linked by a future spur to the Maine Turnpike.

But a key landowner in the development district, Shawn Moody, said Tuesday he envisions developing a business park in the district at the old horse race track and said he is not promoting high-density housing.

To begin redefining the zone, Town Planner Tom Poirier met Monday with Planning Board members Molly Butler Bailey, Michael Richman and George Fox, subcommittee chairman. Poirier said the planning board is looking at the Narragansett Development District at the behest of the Town Council, which wants to make the district more vibrant.

Under the latest comprehensive plan approved by the council in September 2016, the Narragansett district should be enlarged and include both sides of  a Narragansett Street section beginning at the Bernard P. Rines bypass roundabout. The comprehensive plan says it should be re-designated as the Narragansett Mixed-Use Development District.

Allowable uses in the existing Narragansett district include retail stores, shopping centers, professional offices, light industry and commercial businesses.

Potential new permitted uses on the study table include motels, conference centers, motorcycle sales and service, automotive repair facilities and residential units above commercial uses on ground floors of structures. Single and two-family dwellings would not be allowed.

“It’s an interesting mix as proposed,” Fox said.

The committee will review in several meetings the intent of the comprehensive plan and present its report to the Planning Board, which then will conduct a workshop and a public hearing. The process is expected to take six months or possibly up to a year.

In Monday’s meeting, the committee didn’t appear to favor a motorcycle use. Poirier said noise of motorcycle sales and service is a concern of some town councilors and some don’t want to add car dealerships.

Under an expansion of the Narragansett Development District, non-conforming uses there now would stay, according to comments in Monday’s meeting.

Narragansett Street includes some homes, a trailer park, sports dome and a few scattered businesses that include Moody’s Collision Center, the home location in a chain founded by Shawn Moody, now a candidate making his second gubernatorial bid.

In August last year, Moody’s Co-worker Owned Inc. purchased the former horse race track 62-acre site from Hannaford for $1.2 million. The large parcel in the existing Narragansett district is served with public water and sewer. Hannaford had once planned a store at the site before building in the village.

“The race track property is right at the roundabout,” Poirier said.

Earlier this year, Moody presented to the Town Council a sketch plan for a business park at the race track. “We’re waiting for them (planners) to finish their work and then come forth with our proposal,” Moody said.

Poirier said the residential component in the committee’s review of proposed uses needs to be clear as to what would be allowable. “It’s leaning more towards high-density,” Richman said.

Moody said Tuesday “we won’t promote” high-density housing. He does favor someone starting a small business to be allowed to live at a business site. Moody recalled his days as a young  businessman living in a garage room. “It allows you to save some money,” he said.

Construction of the bypass in 2008 sliced through the race track site, leaving a few acres of the parcel sandwiched between the bypass and Cressey Road. Under the proposed redrawn lines of the Narragansett district zone, it appears that race track acreage cut off would land in the village residential zone.

Moody launched his business career as a teenager in a garage he built on a quarter-acre  on Narragansett Street. Today, he owns 70 acres on the race track side of Narragansett Street plus another 150 acres on the opposite side of the street that includes two additional parcels in the proposed expansion of the development district.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or rlowell@keepmecurrent.com