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The CPIC’s zoning subcommittee revised the land use table to stimulate economic development in Castine. On the afternoon of a September 27 5 p.m. hearing on the changes, Main Street businesses keep their flags flying high.
Zoning Subcommittee Chairman Bob Friedlander, standing, outlines proposed land use changes at a September 27 public hearing held by selectmen, from left, Gus Basile (chair), Peter Vogell and David Unger.
by Anne Berleant
At an October 1 meeting, and in separate motions, selectmen voted 2-1 to place the revised subdivision and zoning ordinances on the November 6 ballot, following the recommendation of the planning board. The planning board had met on September 27, immediately following a public hearing on land use changes in the zoning ordinance, and narrowly approved that ordinance, recommending that selectmen remove controversial land use changes aired at the public hearing. They unanimously approved the subdivision ordinance.
Selectmen Chairman Gus Basile was the dissenting voice on both ordinance votes by selectmen, asking, “There’s so much confusion in this room, how are we intelligently going to vote…on November sixth?”
Land use changes “hotly contested”
Selectman David Unger acknowledged that at the September 27 public hearing, “the overwhelming number of views” were opposed to land use proposals as being beyond what the comprehensive plan called for, didn’t capitalize on the historical value of the town, and would change the residential character of Castine.
“I believe we should remove all hotly contested proposed changes in the Land Use table and put the remainder on the ballot,” said Unger, before making the motion to do that. He proposed the May 2013 town meeting as the time and place to vote on land use changes.
Most citizens at the public hearing and selectmen’s meeting wanted both ordinance votes delayed until that time, to allow more time for public discussion and input, especially from summer residents.
“What is the hurry?” asked resident Debbie Neve. “We’re not prepared as a town to vote on something we’re not that knowledgeable on.”
“We’ve been working on this for 18 months. I can’t see that we’re in a hurried mode,” said Selectman Peter Vogell.
The Zoning Subcommittee, charged by selectmen with revising the ordinances to fulfill the directives of the comprehensive plan approved by voters in 2010, met weekly for nearly 18 months in open meetings. However, its Monday 9 a.m. time slot had been questioned as early as March at a public hearing on revisions to the subdivision ordinance.
At that time, subcommittee members agreed to move those weekly work sessions to evening hours and hold more public meetings, to allow greater community input to the revision process.
But neither of those adjustments ever happened. At a subcommittee meeting held on April 2, a week after the March hearing, member Liz Parish clarified that the sessions would not be moved to evening hours, but that more evening public hearings would be held.
A September 13 public hearing held at 7 p.m. by the planning board, and the September 27 hearing held at 5 p.m. by the selectmen, have been the only opportunity community members have had to hear and contribute, in person, after working hours, to proposed changes since March. The revised ordinances have been posted on the town website, however, along with public comments mailed to the subcommittee.
Who gets a voice in town issues, or to delay or not delay the vote
Another charge leveled by those attending the hearing was that a November vote would result in “major decisions decided by [Maine Maritime Academy] students,” in the words of David Schoonover, who was in the majority of citizens who wanted the vote delayed until town meeting.
In addition, many felt that nonresident tax payers deserved a voice in zoning changes, which a delay until town meeting would provide.
“Why would this be voted on during a presidential election?” asked Micky Gast, who identified herself as a summer resident. “I don’t understand why students are going to vote on anything to do with land use.”
Not everyone at the selectmen’s meeting agreed with delaying the vote, or of excising the land use revisions.
“You’re making a motion to cut the arms and legs off the ordinance the subcommittee worked on,” at the direction of the selectmen, said Jimmy Goodson. “Shame on the community for not understanding [the changes]—at the 11th hour.”
Linda MacArthur agreed, saying “The things that we’re asking for are changes so we have the ability to attract proper businesses” for Castine. We can’t be so self-absorbed in our own agendas.”
But a “yes” vote “isn’t in cement,” said Doris Russell. “Even with a yes vote, you can still review those things that are controversial.”
Selectmen Peter Vogell voted against the motion to remove controversial land use changes, stating the revised ordinances should stand for “an up and down vote.”
Or, as Gordon MacArthur put it, charging the selectmen with reactionism: “Take out what’s going to hurt me and I don’t care about anything else.”
In other business, selectmen approved three other ballot questions, concerning the transfer of funds for the Witherle Memorial Library, the Wharves and Docks account and the Town Recreation account.