Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 4, 2012
Castine Planning board votes 3-2 on zoning, 5-0 on subdivision ordinances
by Anne Berleant
Immediately following a September 27 public hearing on proposed land use changes, planning board members voted unanimously to recommend that selectmen place the revised subdivision ordinance on the Election Day warrant. The narrower 3-2 vote on the revised zoning ordinance, “with the recommendation that selectmen review the land use table and make any changes they feel appropriate,” reflects public concerns over changes to the land use table.
Doris Russell and Tom Comicciotto, who is also a CPIC zoning subcommittee member, dissented.
“I’m concerned that the public sees everything moving forward” with the land use changes, said Comicciotto. “[The ordinance] could go down in flames” because of the controversy surrounding those changes.
If the revised Article 5, Land Use table, was removed from consideration, Comicciotto said, the planning board could “look at the rest, get that approved, get it passed.”
“It’s not our decision which of these provisions [selectmen] should remove,” planning board member Par Kettis said.
In addition, it wasn’t perfectly clear to planning board members or selectmen, who were present at the meeting, whether proposed changes in other articles of the ordinance hinge on changes to the land use table.
“You have to be very thorough,” said Selectman Chairman Gus Basile, because approving one article and not another could lead to contradictions, and the affordable housing sections added to both ordinances work in conjunction with one another.
Doris Russell, the other dissenting planning board member, is concerned with the 85,000 square foot minimum lot size in the Village III district. Originally 50,000 square feet, it was amended to 100,000 to “stop” one person, Russell said, and should return to the original requirement.
While voting against recommending the revised zoning ordinance, Russell said, “We need a wider tax base. We can’t lock ourselves into historical preservation.”
“Bring it to a vote and let it stand or fall,” said Gunilla Kettis. “Then it can be worked on again. That’s what happens in the legislature.”
Planning Board Chairman Doug Wellington remarked that any worries he had over possible conflicts of interest, with Comicciotto and Zoning Subcommittee Chairman Bob Friedlander serving on the zoning subcommittee and the planning board, were allayed by Comicciotto’s dissenting vote.
However, Friedlander said, according to the state’s legal definition, a conflict of interest only exists if financial benefit is derived from dual membership on two committees or boards.
Most of the sixty or so citizens who attended the public hearing left before the meeting began.
The selectmen met on October 1 to vote on placing the revised ordinances on the November 6 ballot.
“Town politics—it happens,” Russell said.