Minutes of the Public Hearing Regarding Proposed Changes to the Building & Land Use Ordinance
February 24, 2004

Planning Board chair Perry Fowler opened the meeting at 7:03 PM. The starting time was delayed due to conflicting times advertised for the hearing.

Present were: Planning Board members Michael Garrett, Linda Haft, Brett Jones, Gordon Donaldson, Perry Fowler; Administrative Assistant Stu Marckoon, Conservation Commission members Carol Korty & Joan Bragdon, Deputy CEO Dennis Ford, Deputy Harbor Master Gerald Ford, Assistant Town Clerk Kathleen DeFusco, Appeals Board member Chris Tadema-Wielandt and his wife Lynda, Public Works Study Committee chair Ken Smith, members of the public Gerald Jordan, Enid Neleski, and Selectman Chair Jo Cooper arrived approximately 7:50 PM.

Mr. Garrett said he wanted to make sure that the attendees understood that the proposed changes are now beyond the point where they can be changed again. He said no ordinance is perfect, but the proposed ordinance is less imperfect than the current document. He said if the changes proposed do not pass, the town would have to live with the existing ordinance for some period of time.

Ms. Korty said she spoke earlier in the day with Code Enforcement Officer John Holdsworth who expressed concern over the rationale expressed in the fee structure change by use of the word oversight. She said she was under the impression it referred to the total scope of his job, not to any neglect. She asked if that point could be made clear. Mr. Donaldson said that could be stated at town meeting.

Mr. Garrett said the fees proposed in the changes were adopted by the Selectmen. He said if it were up to the Planning Board, there would be more income generated for more Code Enforcement time. Mr. Jordan said the fees are a new tax for the town to collect more money. He said if a 3,500 square foot home is proposed, it would have cost $200 for a permit under the current ordinance, and would cost $250 under the new ordinance. He said he’s been advocating a change to a square foot fee instead of a flat rate for many years.

Mr. Jordan asked if there had been any public hearings before tonight’s session, and said he was concerned that what’s proposed now could not be changed. Mr. Garrett said this was the public hearing, and they’ve had 3-or-4 informational meetings before. He said all the items raised at previous public sessions have been addressed. Mr. Jordan said the Planning Board is shoving this down the town’s throats without any previous public hearing. Chairman Fowler said the outline is basically the same ordinance as proposed before with changes suggested by the public at previous meetings. He said the Board has not added anything new that had not been proposed previously. He said they have dropped some previous proposals, and have modified others.

Mr. Jordan said the proposed changes add the per square foot fee. Mr. Garrett said that was proposed previously as well. Mr. Smith said the new fee is based on the footprint; the current fee structure is based on the floor area. Mr. Marckoon said on small structures, the fee would actually lower the price for a permit. A small shed at 150 square feet, for example, would be a $7.50 permit instead of $25.00.

Dennis Ford asked for an explanation of the land uses proposed in the land use table on line 21-A. Chairman Fowler said the current ordinance has a line that is very general in nature. He said the proposed change would allow more things in other places. Mr. Ford said in the Residential Zone Retail Business, Business and Professional Offices are listed as no, yet if you go to the definition of a residential zone, home occupations are allowed. He asked if a home occupation is a business. Mr. Marckoon said the definition of home occupation differs distinctly from a business by virtue of the number of employees allowed. He said a home occupation has always been allowed in the Residential Zone. Mr. Donaldson said the table continues to allow home occupations in the Residential Zone, and read the definition of retail.

Mr. Ford read from the proposed junkyard section on page 48. He said the section seems pretty good, but doesn’t mention that a junkyard has to apply for a state license. He said that leaves a lot of questions, and makes it hard to follow the state law. Mr. Garrett said the opening statement of the junkyard section says the Selectmen must issue a permit in accordance with State licensing. Mr. Marckoon said there is no state licensing agency for junkyards – the municipality does that. Mrs. Neleski asked if a junkyard is different from an automobile graveyard. Mr. Donaldson said the definition for automobile graveyard is on page 50. He said there are now two definitions to deal with.

Mr. Jordan asked why the road width standards on page 28 in the subdivision section are proposed to change. He said the proposal would require a 10-foot travel lane and 4-foot shoulders. He said any car along the road would stick out into the street, and that’s not very safety conscious. Chairman Fowler said the Planning Board originally thought about allowing narrower streets in subdivisions. He said they had allowed some subdivision roads to be narrower, and the difference was between paved and unpaved. Mr. Jordan asked why the Board didn’t leave out the pavement standard. Mr. Garrett said the standard proposed was designed to accommodate fire trucks. Mr. Jordan said the standard proposed is defeating the purpose by requiring only a 4-foot shoulder. Chairman Fowler said no one was building roads to those specifications. Mr. Jordan asked why that was not enforced. Mr. Fowler said the developers were able to go to the Board of Appeals and get the width lowered. Mr. Donaldson said the standard reduces the width of a subdivision road from 34-feet to 28-feet. He said the fire chief told the Board that’s not a substantial difference. Mr. Garrett said a 34-foot wide road creates quite a swath that is not consistent with the rural character of the community. Chairman Fowler said the proposed standard is larger than the Planning Board had originally proposed. Mr. Smith noted that Route 184 was rebuilt to have 11-foot travel lanes and 3-foot shoulders, and that works out to the same overall width as what is proposed. Mrs. Neleski asked if she would have to pave 20-feet for the travel lanes if she were to pave a subdivision road. Chairman Fowler said yes. Mrs. Neleski asked if she could leave a 4-foot gravel shoulder. Chairman Fowler said yes. A brief discussion followed on paving width. Mr. Jordan said there should be a paving standard. Mr. Donaldson said that could be proposed for the next revision. Mr. Garrett said the road would have to be passable. Mrs. Neleski asked if there is a minimum road width in a subdivision. Mr. Donaldson answered yes.

Dennis Ford asked about the Certificate of Occupancy section on page 18, and asked the Board to define finished walls. Mr. Garrett reviewed the history of the language. He said if the changes don’t pass, people will be required to have sheet-rocked walls. He said the last proposed changes raised hell with the town over the language fire resistant walls. Mr. Ford said he’s been asked if that means it needs to be painted or wallpapered. Mr. Garrett said that’s stretching things a little. He said it’s a common sense understanding. Mr. Ford said enclosed would be a better word. He said he thinks the drift is that you don’t want open studs. He said the wording could be simpler. Mr. Garrett said they can’t change the wording now – and if the town doesn’t adopt the change, the ordinance remains at sheetrock – period. Mrs. Korty said when she did her house expansion, she was of the understanding that it was up to her to paint the walls. Mr. Donaldson said that’s why the town has a building inspector.

Mrs. Bragdon asked about the building height definition. She said there could be quite a difference in interpretation, and asked what is meant by whichever is greater. Mr. Donaldson said there is a 35-foot maximum height, and the question is where to start measuring to the bottom. Mr. Marckoon said his house could be a good example, as he had to put fill in to bring his garage level with the house, and the measurement of the height would be from the low spot of the garage. There was a discussion about the grade definition in regard to building height among the Planning Board members. Mr. Smith said the idea was that someone could put a lot of fill on a lot to raise the house up higher, and you wouldn’t be able to do that on a newly constructed hill. Mrs. Neleski asked what was wrong with the original definition. Chairman Fowler said one had to do with adding on, the other with new construction. Mr. Donaldson read the building height section from page 13. Mr. Smith said another situation would be a cut into a hillside. A short discussion on the rationale for the change – fire safety and blocking views – followed. Mr. Jordan said a lot of small towns have a 35-foot height restriction for safety reasons.

Mr. Jordan asked for an explanation on page 45 regarding the noise provisions. He asked if that means someone can’t chainsaw a tree on their own property. Mr. Garrett said that applies only to commercial and industrial uses. Mr. Donaldson said he certainly could cut a tree. Mr. Jordan asked about operations with big trucks and machines, and whether they could do it. Mr. Marckoon said he’s unsure if the town could enforce forestry operations since they’re not required to obtain a land use permit. Mr. Donaldson noted the stump grinding operation recently approved would have to adhere to the noise section. Chairman Fowler said a forestry operation could be cited, as they would fit the definition of commercial or industrial land use.

Mrs. Neleski said it looks like the Board did a good job with the ordinance.

Mrs. Bragdon asked about the change in frontage proposed on page 11. She asked if the town would end up with a lot of skinny lots with a house on them. Mr. Garrett said there are long skinny lots all over town. He said without this provision, one could not build on them. Chairman Fowler said the town has been allowing such building. Mr. Garrett said without passage, the town might have to discontinue that practice. Ms. Korty said if a lot were of ample size, it would be better to have the house closer to the road. Chairman Fowler said right now the lots are not buildable, and this would not clutter up the edges of the roads. Ms. Korty said if this is not approved, it leaves a lot of lots unbuildable, and it would seem to be better to have more developed lots close to the road instead of on undeveloped land. Mr. Jones said the fire department is well trained for rural water supplies and longer driveways. Mr. Garrett said it’s not a perfect ordinance. Ms. Korty said it seems to be an improvement over the current ordinance, and it could be changed in the future.

There being no further testimony, Chairman Fowler closed the public hearing at 7:52 PM

Respectfully submitted,

Stu Marckoon, Adm. Asst. to the Selectmen