Boothbay Harbor Planning Board

Board votes to split warrant, singling out height limits

Votes to reconsider at next meeting, recommend new planner
Posted:  Sunday, October 14, 2018 - 8:45am

A vote to separate the Boothbay Harbor planning board's recommendation of a single warrant into two also split the board and attracted concern from the audience Oct. 10. In a 3-2 vote, the board voted to separate the portion of the proposed warrant which would set building heights at 35 feet throughout town.

Member Tom Churchill said it is not clear what the town has to gain with the limit. Members Chris Swanson and Margaret Perritt joined in the same concern that a town-wide ordinance change should be separate from decisions that will impact only one zone and deserves more investigation.

John Hochstein and Chair Bill Hamblen voted no, to keep a single warrant.

"If you do not have a unified package, remember you pull out one piece, something else gets impacted," said Hochstein.

A point of Hochstein's came up several times throughout the public forum, namely that the provision for view corridors, which many saw as an imposition, would be accompanied by a 35-foot height limit rather than keeping the existing 30-foot limit.

Code Enforcement Officer Geoff Smith said that since the Sept. 26 workshop where board members expressed interest in hiring a professional planner to review the two-zone proposal, several community members have also expressed interest in the idea. Smith said if the board decides a planner is necessary, one could likely be found to fulfill a review in time for a public hearing on the proposal.

“So, it wouldn’t really necessarily hold up the process at all finding an independent planner to do a review over the next month,” said Smith.

Board members were split on hiring a planner with some citing Gorrill Palmer's Dan Bacon and Lincoln County Planner Bob Faunce's involvement with the advisory workgroup as a reason to move on. However, since the planner hiring lies in the purview of the board of selectmen, members voted unanimously to send the result of their first vote to selectmen along with the recommendation that they decide whether or not to hire a professional planner.

Boothbay Harbor taxpayer Tom Myette expressed frustration at the idea of the board hiring another planner as well as having split the proposal into two.

“… After asking these people to volunteer for 12 months of their time, there's going to be a technical review that their proposal had merit? If we start taking the threads apart of this negotiation, even by isolating a warrant into two pieces, we undermine that 12 months' worth of work, all of the horse trading that was done, and I doubt very much that this town will ever see that kind of effort succeed again on anything. So, I ask you to reconsider... It sets a terrible precedent on how people are going to negotiate in the future.”

Resident Lindy Sneider said she feels people are “throwing up barriers” to slow down the process and, having an interest in finding property to develop, she is having second thoughts.

“… I'm watching this process and I'm reading in the paper and I'm thinking, boy, I don't think I want to buy something here because it will be so difficult to get anything done,” said Sneider. “And then if some person just doesn't like my taste or something, I'm not going to get anything through? A planning board's a planning board and I guess I feel stupid. I just don't understand why a planning board needs a planner.”

Resident Ken Fitch cautioned against a sprint to the end of the process, that the planning board’s success draws on a careful and steady pace. Others, including developer Paul Coulombe, want to see the current proposal brought to voters pending reviews by the town’s attorney and the Department of Environmental Protection.

Resident Patty Minerich suggested if the board felt it necessary to make the town-wide height limits its own issue, it might want to consider keeping the height limit within the zone and creating a new warrant for the town-wide provision.

The board decided unanimously to reconsider the evening's first vote at the next meeting.