On November 5, Boothbay voters will choose whether or not to adopt 32 ordinance changes proposed by the Boothbay Planning Board.
All the changes come packaged under Question 4, which is called “Miscellaneous Zoning Ordinance Amendments.”
While the majority of the changes modify minor spelling, punctuation and formatting issues, there are a handful of amendments that some residents believe will significantly alter the rural character of Boothbay.
Question 4 includes amendments to signs, zoning maps, driveways and definitions changes.
On October 9, Michael Pander stood up before a packed house at the Boothbay Town Office and criticized the sign ordinances proposed by the planning board.
“What's happening ... will change how this town looks significantly, and it will change in a way that you'll notice,” Pander said. “You'll drive by it every day.”
With voter approval, signs could be as large as 64 square feet (8 by 8 feet), which is double the current dimensions.
The ordinance will also allow the maximum height of signs to extend 10 feet above a roof line, which in Boothbay's most aggressive commercial district, signs could reach a height of 64 feet. The use of internally lit signs, with letters or numbers that flash would also be permitted under the ordinances change.
The sign ordinances primarily affect the mixed commercial/residential districts in Boothbay, which start at the northern town line and extend south down the Route 27 corridor.
The planning board's decision to change the sign ordinances was based on research conducted by board member Mike Tomacelli.
“My basic goal at the beginning of this was to understand why our sign ordinances was so restrictive, specifically the sign setbacks pretty much throughout Route 27,” Tomacelli said at a September planning board hearing.
The current ordinances stipulate that signs must be 50 feet from the center line of the road.
“If you travel down Route 27 and most other areas what you will find is most of our signs are illegal today,” Tomacelli said.
Tomacelli contacted several people at the state level to gather insight into state setbacks and how they could apply to the Boothbay region.
The state recommends signs to be setback 33 feet from a center line of the road. The state also condones internally lit signs, similar to the one at the entrance of T & D Variety. Although internally lit signs are currently illegal in Boothbay, store owner Tim Simmons sought a one year conditional use permit to erect an internally lit sign that displays gas prices. Internally lit signs that flash and distract drivers would still be prohibited under Boothbay's proposed ordinances.
Pander, a former planning board member, warned residents that internally lit signs will affect all the districts in Boothbay.
“You're going to see the glow. Just like you can see the glow of Wiscasset, we will see the glow of Boothbay,” Pander said. “This is ill-advised.”
Planning board vice chairman Fran McBrearty said that after reviewing the state recommendations, the proposed changes are better suited for Boothbay. He also ensured that any new sign would have to be approved by the planning board and conditions could always applicable.
Question 4 includes an amendment to annex additional properties to the Industrial Park, East Boothbay Village and C3 districts.
In the C3 district, the Boothbay Region Refuse Disposal District, the Boothbay Harbor Country Club and Elbridge Giles' gravel pit would all be converted to the commercial district. Currently all the properties are located in a general residential zone.
Also packaged with Question 4 is an amendment that would eliminate driveways as a structure, and a one-year extension to non-conforming (grandfathering) uses. Both driveways and non-conforming use issues have been major hindrances to residents in the past, according to Boothbay Code Enforcement Officer Dan Bryer.
Lastly, the planning board is proposing a resolution to allow commercial boatbuilding under the conditions of a home occupation. The amendment would change the definitions of commecial fishing and and maritime activities and allow a limited boating building operation in a residential district.
According to the planning board, Question 4 is different than Question 5 on the warrant because the "People's Petition," (submitted by David Stimson) would allow the construction of boats to take place anywhere in a residential district.
For the complete listing of the proposed amendments, click the attached file. A copy is also available at the Boothbay Town Office.