CEO: Casco has reached a threshold
By Dawn De Busk
CASCO — Following a recent shoreland zoning violation and other small infractions, Casco Code Enforcement Officer Don Murphy invited a state official to town.
“There are a number of recreation vehicles without tires that are in the shoreland zone, and shouldn’t be,” Murphy told the Casco Board of Selectmen on Tuesday.
“Docks are another issue. Docks are restricted to a six-foot width. We have Tiki docks. We have 20×20-foot docks that have sprung up,” he said.
“How you want to proceed with enforcement is up to you,” Murphy said.
“I am thinking of tonight as education for the selectmen,” he said.
Then, Murphy turned the microphone over to Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Regional Shoreland Zoning Coordinator Mike Morris.
Shoreland zoning violations have “reached the threshold that the town could use some enforcement,” Morris said.
“For Casco, this is kind of new ground we are treading on here,” he said.
“I work for the DEP. I am not a tree hugger, although tree cutting is the largest violation in the region,” he said.
Selectman Tracy Kimball asked if the contractor who removes more than the allotted amount of trees should be liable or does the responsibility fall only on the landowner?
According to Morris, a new piece of legislation that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 will require any contractor — excluding the public works department — who disturbs the soil in the contract zone to have a permit for such work.
“Folks from the DEP do the training of the contractors. Some contractors have procrastinated the training a bit. It is booked pretty solid – for doing the training and giving the exams,” Morris said.
With professionals being brought up to speed, the contractor would be held accountable for any infractions to the shoreland zoning law, he said.
“It is a contractor who cut the trees or built a garage in the shoreland zone, and they know the violations. It is not out of hand to fine not only the homeowner, but also the contractor,” Morris said.
He said the fines are set according to the severity of the tree removal, and that varies from town to town.
Then, he continued talking about fines, which, by law, are set by the town. But those fines — which act as a deterrent to other lakefront landowners — can go hand in hand with reparation of the land.
“We are beyond the days when you went to the barber shop or the coffee shop and so-and-so paid the fine and got away with the violation,” he said.
“Here is what you need to do to mitigate. Here is what you should pay as a penalty. They are two separate things,” Morris said, adding the DEP could help the town with setting appropriate fines.
While the fines may vary according to the infraction and the town’s decision, the mitigation plan is non-negotiable. “The landowner cannot say, ‘I don’t want to move the deck that far. It is supposed to be 160 feet. How about if we split it and I move it 80 feet back?’ ” Morris explained.
“No, there is no negotiation,” he said.