The Board of Selectmen opened its February 19 and March 4 meetings to public comments on a proposed zoning ordinance to replace the one in current use. The so-called “baseline ordinance” will be on the town meeting warrant on June 1.
“If it does not pass on June 1st, we stop,” said Chairman Peter Vogell. “That’s the end of it.”
The selectmen stressed that citizens will not be able to change the proposed ordinance at town meeting, only discuss it. The time to request changes is at selectmen meetings, until they approve the ordinance before an April 11 public hearing by the Planning Board.
The proposed new ordinance grew out of 18 months of revision work by the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee’s subcommittee on zoning, since dissolved by the selectmen. They include changes recommended by the town’s legal counsel to align it with state requirements, and streamline some application procedures, such as allowing the CEO to issue residence building permits over the planning board.
All controversial land use changes proposed by the subcommittee have been stripped, after the ordinance put before voters in November suffered a 287-257 defeat—with nearly all those changes taken out. Voters narrowly passed a revised subdivision ordinance 272-266.
“I’ve always felt if anyone had a strong objection to [a proposed change] in the baseline ordinance, we put it back, for now,” said Abernethy.
Selectmen plan to hold a special town meeting in August or September to vote on land use changes, each as a separate article, allowing time for summer residents to weigh in on the proposed amendments.
There have been two objections to the baseline ordinance so far.
The first is the change in the minimum required lot size in the Village III district, from 100,000 square feet, or around 2.5 acres, to 85,000 square feet, or around two acres, which mirrors the off-neck, Rural District requirement.
The Village III district runs northwest from Battle Avenue between LaTour Street to Castine Road.
To have village lot size requirements larger than off neck “seems a little shaky,” said Selectman Gus Basile.
At a “hastily called” special town meeting in 1988, voters approved creation of the Village III district, with the 100,000 square foot minimum, Town Manager Dale Abernethy said. “One can only speculate it was done to stop some proposed development,” he added.
Before then, all village lot size requirements were a minimum half-acre.
The second objection is to giving the CEO authority to approve parking lots of five or more vehicles or boats.
“It’s more of a planning board decision,” said Par Kettis, a planning board member.
Selectmen have changed the Village III minimum lot size back to 100,000 square feet, and were amenable to reversing the parking lot permit change.
If the proposed ordinance passes, it will then be submitted to state officials to determine its compliance with Castine’s comprehensive plan passed in 2010.
The proposed ordinance is viewable on the town website (castine.me.us).
Pigs in the road
At the March 4 meeting, Kathy Eaton asked to register a complaint about pigs wandering on The Shore Road, which she encountered while driving on March 1, 3 and 4.
“Who expects pigs in the middle of the road?” she said. “I see this as serious. An accident is going to happen.”
Vogell said the town’s animal control officer had visited the pig’s owners “today” and warned them “the state is going to be called in” to get the problem taken care of.
The only state statute that covers this is an animal trespass statute, said Town Manager Dale Abernethy. “If they don’t keep the pigs contained, we’ll start with a civil court action against them.”
Eaton and Brooke Tenney, who also came across the pigs in the road, agreed to be witnesses in court, if necessary.
In other business, Lynn Parsons, on behalf of the Castine Historical Society, requested that the Welcome to Castine sign be changed to read “Incorporated in 1796,” “which is a fact,” said Parsons, instead of “Settled in 1613.”
“A bump-and-run by some French traders doesn’t mean settled,” said Parsons.
Selectmen approved the request 3-0. The historical society will pay for the change.
Also, selectmen approved the request of Aynne Ames—formerly of Cold Comfort Theater, now merged with the Belfast Maskers—to use Emerson Hall for theater performances that will tour Hancock County and the Midcoast, with community involvement in local performances.
“This would be an important move for this town,” said Selectman David Unger.
Selectmen will invite Ames to meet with members of the Castine Arts Association.
Selectmen are narrowing in on a decision to rent the vacant Dyce Head lighthouse keeper’s house year-round and long term. The town office has received three letters of inquiry about renting the house year-round, and four out of five local real estate professionals have recommended this option, reporting the seasonal rental market as “sketchy,” said Vogell.
Repairs recommended by a contractor walk-through include new windows, painting, and a new floor and fixtures in the bathroom, for an estimated $30,000.
“Some of those things have to be done,” said Basile.
On-the-shoulder parking that has turned Battle Avenue “basically into a one-way street,” said resident Gordon MacArthur on February 19, will be targeted by the new traffic enforcement officer, said selectmen when MacArthur reiterated his complaint on March 4.
Selectmen have invited community members to apply for a position on the Community and Economic Development Board. Interested parties should “send an email to Dale.”
Lastly, David Bicks, on behalf of the Castine Yacht Club, requested and was granted use of the town dock for the Castine Classic on July 30 through August 1. An estimated 60 Concordia yawls will participate, with an ashore celebration on July 30, a public exhibition of yachts and symposium on July 31 and the sailboat race on August 1.
“This is the best annual event in Castine all year,” commented Jack Macdonald. “People are exposed to the harbor, and they come back.”