Boothbay Harbor Planning Board

Busy board plans special meeting for east side dialogue

Discusses consultant, master harbor plan; approves move of Shannon’s Unshelled
Posted:  Friday, April 13, 2018 - 2:45pm

The planning board announced April 11, it will hold a special meeting for a public forum on possible changes to the east side marine and water-dependent district.

The Wednesday, April 25 meeting will give voters the chance to speak for or against the proposed ordinance changes before a public hearing is scheduled. Because a public hearing must be advertised at least 15 days ahead, Chair Bill Hamblen said the May 9 board meeting will give the board a chance to reflect on concerns and make changes if needed.

The advisory workgroup has been drafting recommendations for the planning board. Hamblen wanted to discuss some of the more universal issues the board might like to see resolved, including making building heights consistent in all districts (35 feet or two-and-a-half stories), introducing major construction impact fees to more districts than the proposed Atlantic Mixed Use District, food trucks and temporary buildings which are not specified in the town codes, and raising the flood plain elevation from one foot to three feet.

Board member Chris Swanson asked if the town will be required to modify flood plain elevations. Code Enforcement Officer Geoff Smith said no. But  Hamblen said he believes it prudent to consider changes as the Department of Environmental Protection suggestion of three feet will likely be required for all shoreland zones in the coming years.

One of the items planned for the annual town meeting warrant is if Downtown Business District rules’ required footprint for commercial businesses should drop from 10,000 square feet to 2,000 square feet. On the heels of this issue is the idea of expressly restricting buildings from establishing ground level residences while permitting second floor ones. Board alternate Jon Dunsford noted it was a focus of the 2015 comprehensive plan.

Dunsford said the question is, “Do we want to now move into doing an ordinance change that would affect that directly?”

Hamblen also touched on the board’s talks over parking issues in the harbor and in the town. Swanson this issue could possibly be assigned to a consultant for a master harbor plan.

“I don’t think our parking problems can be alleviated merely by ordinances,” said Swanson. “It may take something as sweeping as ‘pedestrian only’ zones or park and rides, … trying to anticipate what parking needs we’ll have five, 10, 20 years down the line.”

At the last meeting, Hamblen asked board members to outline some of the issues they would like to see a consultant address. Hochstein reiterated his point that a master harbor plan should look at the harbor as it regards the water.

“How are you going to spur and help maintain without boaters,” asked Hochstein.

Board alternate Lee Corbin agreed, adding, a master harbor plan should concentrate more on the harbor and its immediate surroundings than the town as a whole. Hamblen agreed. With a consultant and the goal to create a master harbor plan, the town is going to need to decide where the planning begins and ends geographically.

“Do we really look at the area from Roads End around to Sample’s or the hospital or do we want to continue it around to Blake’s and all the way out to Bigelow? I’m still up in the air about that one,” said Hamblen.

Selectman Mike Tomko spoke as a resident. He praised the planning board for considering a master harbor plan, and said many of the issues the town is dealing with have also been the issues of other coastal communities – some of which have overcome those issues and some not.

“I personally would like to see some way to correspond, communicate, and talk to individuals from Belfast and Camden and Rockland and benefit from their experiences … What’s worked well? What can we learn from (their) experiences? I would encourage that if possible.”

East side resident and Joy to the Wind Gallery co-owner Lynne Seitzer expressed concern that there have not been many summer residents in town the past few months to air concerns about what happens in Boothbay Harbor. Hamblen explained that while the issue only pertains to the registered voters of Boothbay Harbor, with two more planning board meetings, a public hearing, the select board’s process, and a to-be-determined date for a special town meeting, it will likely be well into summer before residents vote on the issues.

The workgroup report will soon be on the town website, said Smith, adding he hopes the special meeting at the firehouse will be packed. 

The board unanimously approved an application for Shannon Lynn Schmelzer to move her business Shannon’s Unshelled across Granary Way to Betty and Sewall Maddox’s property at 23 Townsend Ave. She was barely able to address the serious safety improvements before board members pointed them out.

“I think the safety is the area we’ve had quite a number of discussions (on) previously about pedestrians coming blindly around that corner,” said Hamblen. “This is a plus for pedestrian safety.”

“I had several times coming in there that was very scary,” noted board member Margaret Perritt. “This is a real plus.”

Schmelzer clarified that the presence of four to five picnic tables would not encroach on handicapped parking or the public restrooms which are both close by and the building, a temporary structure, would likely be brought closer to the ground. Smith said water, sewer and electricity would be lined in from the Maddox property and everything about the application looked good.

The board meets next at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 25 for the special meeting at the fire station. The board will also meet, as scheduled, at 7 p.m.  Wednesday, May 9.