Bridgton seeks to clarify shoreland zoning vote

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

As if the upcoming vote on Shoreland Zoning in the downtown weren’t already so long delayed to have become confusing, Bridgton Selectmen on Tuesday had to take the added step of reaffirming their Sept. 11 vote to take the amendments to voters on Nov. 6.

The reason? Resident Chuck Renneker challenged Selectman Woody Woodward’s right to be part of the Sept. 11 vote, because Woodward owns one of four parcels listed as exempted in the General Development I zone.

Woodward resisted recusing himself, as was recommended after Selectman Bernie King sought an opinion on the matter from the legal services department of the Maine Municipal Association. After considerable discussion of the process the board needs to adopt from now on, a motion to require that Woodward recuse himself failed on a 2–2 tie vote, with Bob McHatton and Paul Hoyt voting against it. But the issue clarified for the board that, if any member sees a need for any other member not to vote on an issue, the member in question must publicly state that they have a potential conflict, and then the board as a whole must take a vote on the recusal.

In a related matter, Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz passed out a list of frequently asked questions on the upcoming Shoreland Zoning amendments, in response to reports that there was considerable confusion over “a very misunderstood and complex amendment,” Berkowitz said. In essense, the question before voters is whether to re-affirm the vote they passed last December allowing a reduction in lot sizes from 20,000 to 5,000 square feet in the GD I Zone, and 20,000 to 1,000 square feet in the GD II Zone (on the south side around Pondicherry Square) on a “per-bedroom” basis, not on a “per residential dwelling unit” basis as the Department of Environmental Protection initially required as a change. It took this long, Berkowitz said, because the town needed to formally challenge the DEP’s conditional approval and negotiate with them over language that would be acceptable to both sides.

“We have come full circle” after the DEP’s conditional approval and their admission that they made an error in misinterpreting the town’s “per bedroom” language, Berkowitz said. If the Nov. 6 amendments to the town’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance passes, he said an owner, for example, with a 10,000-square-foot lot could use 5,000 square feet of the ground floor for commercial use and have up to five 1,000-square-foot bedrooms on the second floor.

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