Planning and Zoning FAQ

What is zoning?

The purpose of zoning is to regulate property use and development within each district and ensure that the vision in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan is consistently met. Zoning divides the town into districts and districts are shown on the zoning map, and the Chapter 181 Land Use Ordinance lists the rules for each district. Zoning is just one piece of the review of any proposed development or project, which may also entail evaluation for planning criteria (known as Site Plan review), building codes, and electrical codes. Each zoning district has minimum lot frontage, depth and size requirements.

What zone is my property in?

The town has a zoning map where you can zoom in on an area of interest. Major zone categories include Residential (R), Rural Residential (RR), and the Form Based Code Village Districts.

What are the Form Based Code Village Districts?

A form-based code (FBC) is a way to regulate development that controls building form first and building use second, with the purpose of achieving a particular type of “place” or built environment based on a community vision. Standish contains three FBC village districts: Standish Corner District, Sebago Lake Village District and Steep Falls Village District. The Standish Corner District and Sebegao Lake Village are regulated by street types. General standards, dimensional requirements and uses can be found here: https://ecode360.com/6382121#29444870. Please contact Town Planner, Zach Mosher, at 642 4536 or zmosher@standish.org for more information.

Can I change the zone that a parcel is listed in?

Changing the zone of a property, known as a zoning map amendment, is an involved process, and success is not guaranteed. Petitioners must provide documentation that the property is appropriate for rezoning based on the principles of zoning and the town’s comprehensive plan.  It then requires public hearing and review through the Planning Board, and then public hearing and final approval through the Town Council. Both the Planning Board and Council would have to find that the zoning is appropriate and not likely to cause negative impacts on surrounding existing uses such as residences.

How do I find the rules for my zone?

Chapter 181 – Land Use Zoning Ordinance lists the rules for each district. Use the following link to navigate to rules for each district: https://ecode360.com/6382121, and then click on the district that you are interested in. Each zone section has the following information:

  •  Purpose – the intent and goals of the zone.
  •  Permitted Uses – uses that are allowed in the zone, usually requiring permit approval.
  •  Special Exception Uses – uses that are generally considered compatible with the permitted uses of the zone and requiring site plan approval from the Planning Board.
  •  Other uses listed shall first require approval from the Board of Appeals as a special exception. Such uses shall also require site plan review and approval from the Planning Board.
  •  Dimensional Requirements – all of the space and bulk criteria that new construction in the district must meet such as lot size, street frontage, setbacks, building height.

How do I measure setbacks?

Setbacks are measured from the actual property lines and not from fences, curbs, sidewalks, or street pavement edges. A property survey may be necessary to verify the location of property lines prior to construction. From the property line, setbacks are usually measured to the foundation edge of the structure. Any feature that exceeds a two-foot projection should be included in the setback measurement.

My proposed structure can’t meet the setbacks – are there any other options?

Every effort should be made to design a development that meets the required setbacks and other dimensional criteria. Variances are rare. 

If I demolish a non-conforming structure, can I rebuild it in the same location?

Article V of Chapter 181 in the Standish Land Use ordinance govern the replacement of nonconforming structures. Follow this link: https://ecode360.com/6383024. Generally, if a legally-existing, non-conforming structure is torn down, it can be replaced with building permit approval within one year of the demolition. The replacement structure must be exactly the same as the previous structure, including footprint, height, and shell. Other requirements may apply, and different rules apply to non-conforming uses.

Is my vacant lot buildable?

There are many factors to review. These include:

  • Does the lot meet current dimensional standards (minimum lot size, road frontage, etc.) for the zone?
  • If it does not meet current dimensional standards, can it qualify as a non-conforming buildable “Lot of Record” per Section 181-14? Follow the link for this section: https://ecode360.com/6382544 of the ordinance.
  • Has the lot been divided from another lot? This might have created a subdivision requiring town approval. Please contact the Town Planner at 642 4536 or zmosher@standish.org.

Can I split my lot and create a new buildable lot?

There are many factors to review to answering this question. See below:

  • Do you have enough road frontage for more than one lot?
  • Do you have enough area for more than one lot? 
  • Can you meet property line setbacks to existing structures when you create a new property line? 
  • Are there any easements across your property to be deducted from your total area? 
  • Are there any wetlands, slopes greater than 20%, or floodplains on your property? 

If the lot split were to create a legal subdivision, as defined by Maine Revised Statute 30-A §4401, the subdivision would require Planning Board approval. A subdivision typically occurs when a parcel is split into three or more lots (two splits) within a five-year period.

Can I operate a business from my home?

Possibly. Depending on the nature of your business, it may qualify as a Home Occupation Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3. You need to determine if a home occupation is allowed in the zoning district where your property is located. It will be listed under the uses for that zoning district. Depending on the zoning district, Home Occupations are only permitted as a special exception, which means that approval has to come through the Planning Board. You should also review the performance standards for home occupations in Chapter 181, Sec. 35.2 of the ordinance to learn the criteria regarding Home Occupations. 

Why do I need a Flood Hazard Development Permit when my home has never flooded and I have never had flood insurance?

If your property is shown to be in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) on Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) for Standish, the National Flood Insurance Program requires that you obtain a permit for any development, defined as any manmade change to the improved or unimproved real estate, including things like filling or storage of equipment or materials. Homeowners may be able to apply for a Letter of Map Amendment, which removes their property from the SFHA if they provide acceptable proof. More information is available at: 

http://www.maine.gov/dacf/flood/info_for/homeowners_businesses.shtml