Re-zone re-vote fails for River Road property

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WINDHAM — A request for the Town Council to re-zone part of a property on River Road has failed – for the second time.

Property owner Bryan Mills and his engineer Dustin Roma of DM Roma Engineering Consultants were back before the Windham Town Council this week for a reconsideration of their request to allow a nearly 6-acre property that splits the farm residential and medium residential zones to be rezoned as entirely medium residential.

The Council originally turned down the rezoning request for the property near the intersection of River Road and Route 202 by a 4-2 vote on Jan. 30, but Councilor Jarrod Maxfield, who voted against it at the time, asked at a later meeting to reconsider the vote.

“I am the one that asked for this to come back,” Maxfield said at this week’s meeting,” Maxfield explained Tuesday night. “Frankly, I didn’t do my homework last time properly, because I didn’t realize that your property is currently bisected by this (zoning).”

Roma said that the parcel of land in question is about 6 acres and that about 2 acres are currently zoned medium residential and 4 acres are farm residential. He said that the re-zoning would allow the development to be moved further away from River Road.

“If we were to do multi-family development out front under current zoning, we’re looking at about seven dwellings that we could do out front and then another four out back is my estimate,” Roma said. “So 11 total dwellings with multi-family out back, and potentially single family out back.”

Roma said the re-zoning would allow an increase to 15 or 16 units, which he called “not a drastic change.”

“So I did originally vote against this thinking that, essentially, his land was in one zone and he was asking for the entire thing to be completely put into another zone, which would have been spot zoning, which I’m not a fan of,” Maxfield continued. “But upon learning after the vote that you are bisected and that, no matter what, you are going to be able to do something there, I would rather change my vote for that and give you the ability to do a little bit more, if that’s also going to push it back off the road.”

Despite Maxfield changing his vote, the re-zoning request sill failed on a 3-3 split vote. Council Chairwoman Donna Chapman and Councilor Dennis Welch joined Maxfield in supporting the request, while Councilors Clayton Haskell, Rebecca Cummings and Robert Muir voted against it.

Haskell said before the vote that his mind hadn’t changed since the last vote in January, when he said that adding multi-family housing had the potential to add students to the school district and add costs for the taxpayers. Muir said in January that the request sounded like spot zoning.

Councilor Timothy Nangle, who voted in favor of the request in January, was absent Tuesday night.

“We had a supporter on the Council who was not there tonight,” said Roma after the meeting. He seemed surprised by the result.

Roma said during Tuesday night’s meeting that he and Mills did have a discussion with town staff after the initial council decision to try to develop a sense of what Mills could do on the property without rezoning. Roma said that conversation was “very confusing” and didn’t yield any specific direction.

Roma and Mills weren’t sure after the meeting if they would try to move forward with the project just on the portion of the property closer to River Road already zoned medium residential.

“It’s tough to say – we want to do the right development on this piece,” Roma said.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

The Windham Town Council has once again voted not to accept a re-zoning request for a property on River Road owned by Bryan Mills.

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