Gorham schools are considered to be near or at capacity with approximately 2,700 students attending the five schools. Some residents have suggested not permitting any additional residential growth as a means of limiting the number of new students entering the schools. Currently, if a developer wants to build new homes and meets the current rules set by the Town, which are found in the Land Use Code, the Planning Board must approve the development.
The Town can not deny approval based on a desire to potentially limit the number of students coming into the schools. Some communities have limited the number of residential building permits issued annually but this has led to other problems such as commercial builders obtaining most of the permits for new homes before an individual property owner, who might like to build a single home for a family member, is able to obtain a permit thereby shutting them out for the year.
Gorham is constantly amending its ordinances in response to the growth in the community but Town Manager David Cole pointed out that people with private property have rights to develop their land, and ordinances can be challenged if they are unreasonable.
Over the years, as Gorham has grown, impact fees have been added for new infrastructure to cover such things as the cost of schools and athletic fields, with new property owners being charged those fees. The Town Council voted to eliminate the impact fees on the debt service for the Middle School but retained other impact fees.
The Town Council could approve a six-month moratorium on something specific that current ordinances do not address but the goal cannot be to stop housing from being built. For example, the Council could issue a six-month moratorium on the basis of standards that new roads were not adequate to develop better standards for those new roads, and the moratorium could potentially be extended for another six months if specific legal conditions were met. Such a moratorium might well face a court challenge. Cole said that Gorham’s current Land Use Code, may not be perfect, but it is very good.