June 11, 2019 – Ogunquit Town Meeting

Existing zoning regulations preclude the ability to expand and renovate the Ogunquit Playhouse, and impedes the Playhouse’s ability to comprehensively fulfill its mission and much of its vision. 

Article 5 proposes a zoning amendment that would rezone the Ogunquit Playhouse properties on Main Street from the Shoreland Limited Commercial (SLC) District to the Shoreland General Development (SG3) District. The new zone will allow for Town consideration of major improvement projects to include:

  • Restoration of the “fly loft” (common in all theaters) that was destroyed in a hurricane in 1950; the funds were never available to restore it.

  • Lobby expansion to accommodate upgrades to the bathrooms, concessions and bar areas 

  • Improvements that will allow full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 

  • Upgraded and additional seating capacity. The number of seats in the Playhouse has varied over the years, in the past offering over 700 seats. Presently the Playhouse contains 660 seats. Under the master plan, in order to render the seating on the first floor more comfortable, allow more direct views of the stage, enhance ADA compliance, and widen the aisles, it may be necessary to remove a significant number of seats from the first floor and relocate them to a small balcony or mezzanine. If this is possible, the total seating capacity of the Playhouse may increase to about 800. However, this is still conceptual and difficult to quantify AND any proposal would require Planning Board approval.

  • Continued on-site fabrication of sets and props. No matter what definition of “manufacturing” is used, manufacturing would be allowed in the SG3 zone only as if permitted with Site Plan Review, and only if it is an accessory use to a non-profit performing arts theater.  So, the only type of “manufacturing” that would be allowed in the SG3 District is the limited range of fabrication commonly conducted in connection with a non-profit performing arts theater: light fabrication of sets, scenery, props, and costumes, using theatre-industry-standard materials, including eco-friendly water-based paints. As for noise and environmental concerns, please remember that we must clear site plan review with the Planning Board and adhere to strict DEP guidelines.

  • A permanent, safer, and more weatherproof event space. We envision moving the 1937 scene barn out of the RP zone to the location of the current event tent for a more suitable, all-weather venue for the events we hold today for our members and subscribers, donors, sponsors and the like. We envision the possibility of children’s theatre performances, theatre readings, acting seminars and more community events like the Wells and Ogunquit Center at Moody and the Silver Sneaker group at St. Joseph College event we’re working on for August in conjunction with Murder on the Orient Express. We do envision the restored and preserved historic scene barn will include amenities like restrooms and better facilities for food catering and beverage services. But to be clear, we are in the theater business, and we have no desire whatsoever to enter into the restaurant business.

  • Lot coverage up to 70%. The Playhouse and its parking areas current cover over50% of the area. Some of the lot coverage includes much needed parking. Parking areas identified in the master plan show possible parking space allotment only. The goal is to restore all parking areas with grass/pervious materials where feasible, while maintaining safety and adhering to zoning guidelines. While maximum Shoreland building coverage can be up to 40% without conditions or justification, 70% coverage is allowed by the State with proper approval. If existing or proposed improvements would cover more than 40% of a lot, all new development must comply, to the extent practicable, with DEP Low Impact Development (“LID”) Standards for stormwater management set forth in DEP Maine Stormwater Best Practices Manual

We do not want to increase paved areas on the Playhouse property. In fact, we want to decrease paving, and we aspire to have plenty of outdoor garden areas and green space to enjoy.

Vote YES on Article 5

  • Voting YES on this article creates a Shoreland Zoning District with uses restricted to a non-profit performing arts theatre and its ancillary functions. 

  • Voting YES to create the district establishes what is permissible in terms of usage, maximum heights, maximum lot coverage, and setbacks. 

  • Voting YES DOES NOT approve for construction of ANY parts of the Playhouse Master Plan, a plan develop over four years ago based on needs identified by key stakeholders to ensure the Playhouse’s long-term viability and contribution to the community and the region. If the zone is approved, the Playhouse must submit all proposed design plans for design review, in accordance with town-defined processes. At this time, under current zoning, the Playhouse cannot even propose a design for renovation, restoration, or alteration.

  •  Voting YES leaves the existing Resource Protected zone intact and unaltered.

The ordinance creates a new District that retains the RP Zone and avoids unintended future development through a limited zoning definition of the principle use: “a non-profit performing arts theatre” and non-profit performing arts theatre ancillary uses. The ordinance adheres to a long list of “not permitted uses” that excludes most uses that are inconsistent with a primary theater use. The ordinance proposes 31 changes to the current Shoreland Limited Commercial uses, in all cases making use more restrictive than the current Shoreland Limited Commercial Zone. Through this process to get to the June warrant, the Playhouse has clearly stated in writing and in 6 public forums the amendment’s benefit to the community through our aspirations, including:

  • Being  widely recognized leader in American theatre

  • Being a destination for theatre lovers young and old, near and far

  • Being avital player and valued partner in ensuring our Town’s and our region’s cultural and economic vitality

  • Producing the best theatre possible and creating an extraordinary experience for its audiences 

  • Preserving the Playhouse’s history and honoring its artistic legacy 

  • Introducing new folks of all ages and backgrounds to the magic and life-altering impact of theatre

  • Expanding outreach to, and impact in, the region through collaboration with schools, civic organizations, and community partners 

There are at least three major directives that will dictate the uses of and/or the degree of improvements to the property:

  • The SG3 zone language restricts use only to a non-profit performing arts theatre and its accessory uses.

  • National Historic Register guidelines dictate parameters for changes to the property.

  • John Lane’s deed dictates that the Playhouse must always remain a theatre. 

The stewards of the Ogunquit Playhouse—the staff and the board of trustees— will not compromise our local historic landmark or its environment in any way. We want only to make much needed improvements to better serve our mission and our community for generations to come.

PRESERVE the Legacy of the Ogunquit Playhouse for the Future

Ogunquit Playhouse has long been a leader in the American theatre. It is the first and only purpose-built summer theatre from its era in the U. S. In 1937, it was a state-of-the art building, rivaling many Broadway theatres. The historic building, its legacy of schooling generations of theatre professionals as well as producing first class, award-winning theatrical productions for decades, has placed it on the list of nationally significant properties by the National Historic Register. It is a unique, iconic and a local treasure that has been enhancing our community and beyond for generations.

In 2018, inspired by 2015 architectural concept to enhance the Playhouse to better serve the community and its patrons, staff, and artists (a.k.a., the Master Plan), the board of trustees and staff embarked on a 7-month strategic planning process, supported by internal and external stakeholders, and  implemented a new strategic plan. The plan presents new mission and aspiration statements that focus the foundation’s vision on the Playhouse’s viability for future generations:


Building upon a legacy of leadership in American theatre, the Ogunquit Playhouse produces world-class performances, cultivates new works for the stage, and preserves an iconic and historic playhouse for future generations.


As the board and staff look to the future, we envision an organization that within three to five years will be:

  • A widely recognized leader in American/regional theatre,

  • An innovator and an incubator of new works,

  • A destination for theatre lovers young and old, near and far,

  • A vital player and valued partner in ensuring the region’s cultural and economic vitality, and

  • A workplace of choice

  • … that is ...Still producing the best theatre possible and creating an extraordinary experience for its audiences

  • Preserving its history and honoring its artistic legacy

  • Introducing new folks of all ages and backgrounds to the magic and life-altering impact of theatre

  • Creating new musicals and sustaining an art form 

  • Operating in restored, renovated, and expanded facilities that are faithful to the past and appropriate for the present

  • Conducting business in an efficient, cost-effective manner

  • Expanding outreach to and impact in the region through collaborations with schools, civic organizations, and community partners

  • Recruiting and retaining the best possible staff and volunteers

  • Financially stable with a sustainable business model and an engaged, supportive board of directors