LEWISTON — Last week, the City Council passed a series of changes to its zoning and land use code without much fanfare.

The agenda item was labeled as “corrections, clarifications and changes for definitions, administration and enforcement, appeals and variances, district regulations, performance standards, development review and standards, and significant buildings and standards.”

However, city officials said last week that the changes — some of which are extremely simple — are the beginning of a more comprehensive effort to update city ordinances for a variety of reasons. The hope is to make rules on building and development simpler for residents and developers, and conform with state law for such things as tiny houses, especially ahead of new legislation aimed at increasing the housing stock.

Shelley Norton, deputy director of Planning, said some of the changes were simply to clear up confusing language or errors that were missed when the ordinances were last updated.

Misty Parker, economic development manager, said the changes were essentially a list of things staff had heard about over several years, that “may not seem like a big deal, but actually make things easier for a lot of people.”

One such change dropped the requirement for a permit for sheds under 200 square feet, as well as allowing sheds to be placed a minimum of 5 feet from a property line.


“Something like that 5-foot setback is a big deal for people, so they can utilize their property more,” Norton said.

The changes also include a “back lot” provision, which allows the development of up to six homes in the rear of a lot without requiring road frontage.

Norton said the recent approval is likely just the first in a series of changes slated for the next two years, “in an effort to streamline some of our processes to allow for greater development opportunity and address housing pressure, especially in relationship to LD 2003.

She said the legislation “moved forward” some ideas that staff had already been exploring.

The bill, among other things, requires that municipalities allow greater housing density in residential areas, including allowing at least one accessory dwelling unit on every single-family dwelling in an area zoned for housing.

The bill was introduced in response to skyrocketing home and rental prices caused by the pandemic and a demand that far outstripped the statewide supply.


Norton said addressing the legislation could be a couple “groups of changes” away prior to when the bill takes effect July 1, 2023, but said she has been in on state discussions on implementation. The Maine Municipal Association, which did not put its support behind the bill, is also expected to release guidance for municipalities.

Parker said the City Council and Planning Board are slated to hold a joint meeting July 12 to discuss some of the options and priorities for the next round of changes. During a workshop with the city’s Housing Committee in June, some councilors expressed “grave concerns” with the bill and what it could mean for Lewiston.

However, other officials embraced the legislation, including Mayor Carl Sheline who testified in favor of the bill this spring. Sheline said the changes approved by the council last week are “an exciting first step.”

“Anytime you can take resident feedback and use it to streamline the process, it makes it easier for staff and people who take out permits,” he said.

The city has been receiving a steady stream of questions about the legislation, but staff said the first phase of changes was designed more to “get caught up” with what the state had done previously.

Tiny homes are allowed in Lewiston in place of a single-family home, or as an accessory dwelling unit, but the ordinance did not reflect an actual definition of a tiny home until now. Future discussions will include possibly expanding where tiny homes are allowed, Norton said.

Parker said some are things they’ve heard from developers, and that future changes will hopefully make the permitting process more efficient.

The Planning Board held a public hearing on the changes in May, sending a unanimous positive recommendation to the council.

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